Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
How did you get here? Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career?
I have spent the last 20 years working in foreign policy and international economic development: in Congress, in the Clinton Administration, and with the NGO community. When President Obama was elected, I was then the staff director for the committee in the House that manages the foreign policy budget. In his first term, he nominated me to be the head of Asia for USAID, and in his second term he nominated me to be the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career?
My grandparents and my husband. My grandparents – who both strived for Indian independence, spent time in British jails, and insisted on sending their daughter, my mother, to college – taught me that you have to fight for what you believe in, be ready to sacrifice, and always work for the greater good, not just your own. My husband, who is an accomplished scientist, put his own career on hold and took on parenting responsibilities so that I could pursue this opportunity, and he has always encouraged me to dream big.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment during the Obama administration?
When people look back at this time, they will see that the Rebalance to Asia was one of the premier foreign policy legacies of the Obama Administration. So I feel grateful to have worked on key aspects of the Rebalance: whether it was opening the USAID mission in Burma with the President, or being on his historic visit to India as the Chief Guest for Republic Day, or managing the dramatic transition in U.S. relations with Sri Lanka following the January 2015 election, or launching the C5+1 platform with Secretary Kerry and the five Central Asia foreign ministers in Samarkhand. This Administration has recognized the historic and future importance of Asia to the security and prosperity of the American people, and I am privileged to be working on these issues.
Can you describe your time working for the Obama administration in 10 words?
Exhilarating, challenging, rewarding, exhausting, humbling, fun, meaningful, historic, game-changing!
Complete the sentence: “When I’m not working, I…”
When I am not working, I am spending time with my two smart, independent, sassy daughters, and my wonderful husband. We like to hike and bike. Lately, the girls – ages 6 and 8 – have also taken an interest in cooking, so we are experimenting with some new Asian recipes that are expanding their palates and sharpening their culinary skills.