A day after Donald Trump swept the 2016 US elections to become President, the seven and nine year old daughters of now former state department official, Nisha Biswal, asked her – “Does this mean that we have to leave, because we are immigrants?”
“It was shocking to me that my young children had picked up so much of the rhetoric of the campaign that they themselves, a day after the elections, expressed their concerns,” Biswal had said back then.
The Indian-origin diplomat, who served as the Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in the US Department of State under the Obama administration, was, on 10 October, appointed to head the US-India Business Council (USIBC), a powerful advocacy group of US companies with business interests in India.
Here’s a quick look at her impressive resume:
- Biswal served at USAID from 1995 to 1999 in a number of capacities, including Special Assistant to the Administrator, Chief of Staff in the Management Bureau.
- She served as the professional staff of the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee from 1999 to 2002.
- From 2005 to 2010, she was the Majority Clerk for the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee on the Committee on Appropriations in the US House of Representatives.
“Practising Hindu, Proud American”
Biswal was born to Kanu and Lata Desai in Gujarat in 1968. “As first generation immigrants, our parents journeyed far from rural India to pursue the American Dream and a better life for their children. We are grateful for their continued sacrifices on our behalf,” she was quoted as saying.
When Trump announced a sweeping ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, Biswal was among the diplomats who took a strong stance against it.
Talking about the incident where an Indian-American resident of Maryland was questioned about her immigration status after a neighbour called the police to report a “suspicious” person, Biswal had asked: “Is this what we want for our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and fathers?”
The former state department diplomat is married to Subrat Biswal, who has Odia origins. An active Twitter user, Biswal mostly posts about political happenings. However, before her maiden trip to Odisha in 2015, Biswal’s tweet took on a different colour.
“I was waiting for this day for a long time because I visit India for administrative purposes about six or more times a year. I also visit Gujarat once or twice a year, but alone. My husband and I are travelling together to India for the first time,” she had then said, adding that the trip was special for her as a “daughter in-law of Odisha”.
When She Was Mistaken For an Indian Govt Official
While her Twitter account spells out her profile as a US Diplomat, this fact evaded freshman American lawmaker, who in 2015 mistook her to be an Indian government representative at a Congressional hearing.
Biswal, on realising his apparent gaffe, gently replied: “I think your question is to the Indian government...We certainly share your sentiment, and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the US.”
When She Was Called a “Two-Penny Minister”
Biswal found herself involved in a defamation case after Bangladeshi leader Syed Ashraful Islam in 2015 called her a “two-penny minister”. Bangladeshi resident Md Jahangir Alam had then filed a defamation case against Islam, one that was ultimately dismissed by a Bogra court.
Her Views on Indo-China and Indo-US Relations
Biswal is known for being vocal about issues that concern the Indian subcontinent, including her views on China post the Doklam standoff and the ongoing H1-B visas.
“Demonising” the H1-B work visa issue could be a “source of tension” in Indo-US ties, Biswal had remarked in March 2017, following reports that the Trump administration was initiating a spate of steps against it.
(With inputs from PTI and AP)
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