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Indian American appointed to key Pentagon post

May 16, 2012 21:47 IST

Vikram J Singh, who was the senior defense adviser to Richard Holbrooke, the erstwhile United States special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been appointed to a key Pentagon post -- deputy assistant secretary of defense for south and Southeast Asia.

After Holbrooke's sudden death, Singh was promoted to be one of the two deputies, along with Dan Feldman, to assist Frank Ruggiero, the acting special representative to the Af-Pak region.

But after Marc Grossman was appointed to succeed Holbrooke, many of the latter's hand-picked advisers, including Singh, were in limbo because Grossman brought in his own team.

Several of Holbrooke's team returned to their earlier positions in the agencies from which they were plucked or to the various think tanks.

Singh was also a product of an influential think tank, the Center for a New American Policy, where he served as a fellow, working on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Asia Initiative '09, and a range of CNAS defense strategy and planning projects until 2009.

But his Pentagon appointment was a homecoming of sorts. From 2003 to 2007, he had worked in the Office of the assistant secretary of Defense for Global Security Affairs. He was responsible for strategic initiatives to improve the US military's work with partner nations, including the policy oversight and management of a joint Department of Defense and Department of State program to train and equip foreign military forces around the world.

Singh was one of the Pentagon's top policy analysts and worked on issues like counter-insurgency and irregular warfare capabilities, disaster response and humanitarian assistance, oversight of peacekeeping missions.

In his new avatar at the Pentagon, Singh replaces Robert Scher, who has moved to the Planning Bureau at DOD as a deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Track record

An alumnus of the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University, from where he received his BA in history and MA in international security policy, respectively, Singh joined the government as a Presidential Management Fellow.

He managed a five-country Ford Foundation project in South Asia that was focused on minority rights and security in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal for the International Center for Ethnic Studies, headquartered in Colombo.

Singh was also, for a few years, a journalist, having been a reporter for the Voice of America in Sri Lanka and South Africa.

In 2002, he was awarded the Foreign Language and Areas Studies Fellowship. He is an International Fellow of Columbia University. He has received a Superior Honor Award from the Department of State, at the time he was part of Holbrooke's team.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC