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Senate confirms Nisha Desai as US asst secretary of state

October 17, 2013 21:58 IST

The US Senate has confirmed Indian-American woman administrator Nisha Desai Biswal as the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, making her the first person from the community to hold the top diplomatic position.

Biswal, who is currently the Assistant Administrator for Asia at the US Agency for International Development, will replace incumbent Robert Blake to head the key bureau in the State Department.

US President Barack Obama had nominated her for this top position on July 18. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had held her confirmation hearing last month, during which she received bipartisan support and was praised by lawmakers from both the parties.

"I consider you another compelling argument for comprehensive immigration reform," said Senator John McCain of the Republican Party.

"Despite your misguided political affiliation, I would like to say that you're a great example to all of us of people who come to this country. I know you were very young,...and the opportunities that this country provides," McCain said in praise of Biswal, who is from the Democratic Party.

McCain who lost out to Obama in the 2008 presidential elections rarely praises someone from the Democratic Party. 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.

From 2002 to 2005, she served as the Policy and Advocacy Director at InterAction. Previously, she served on the professional staff of the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee from 1999 to 2002. Daughter of first generation Indian Americans, Biswal draws her inspiration from her parents' story of journey far from rural India to pursue the American Dream and a better life for their children, which she told lawmakers during the confirmation hearing of her current position on July 21, 2010.

Image: Nisha Desai Biswal

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