Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia


India; Pakistan; Bangladesh; South Asia; nationalism and political movements in South Asia; economic development; fragile states; emerging markets; business and foreign policy.

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Ask CFR Experts

What will be the effect of India's general election on relations with its neighbors, the EU, and the United States?

Asked by Najibullah Adamji, from Mithibai College, Mumbai University

Historically, India's foreign policy has not oscillated on a partisan basis, exemplifying the American adage: politics stops at the water's edge. This doesn't mean politics has no effect on foreign policy in India; it is, however, more attenuated with powers farther away, and amplified with smaller neighbors.

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See more in India; Elections


India's Change Election

Speaker: Alyssa Ayres

More than eight hundred million Indians will head to the polls next month to elect a new government that must tackle corruption and a fizzling economy, explains CFR's Alyssa Ayres.

See more in India; Elections

Ask CFR Experts

How does Bangladesh’s socio-political situation affect India?

Asked by Chaitali Phadke

Bangladesh is a critically important neighbor for India, and one with great impact on India—both positive and potentially negative. On the positive side, Bangladesh is a country of approximately 160 million people making great progress on human development, with an economy consistently growing between five and six percent, and with ambitions to reach lower-middle income levels by 2021.

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See more in Bangladesh; Society and Culture; Economics


Speaking Like a State

Author: Alyssa Ayres
Alyssa Ayres examines Pakistan's troubled history by exploring the importance of culture to political legitimacy. By comparing Pakistan's experience with those of India and Indonesia, Ayres analyzes how their national language policies led to very different outcomes. The lessons of these large multiethnic states offer insights for the understanding of culture, identity, and nationalism throughout the world.

See more in Pakistan; Ethnicity, Minorities, and National Identity

Current Projects

U.S. Relations with South Asia Roundtable Series

Director: Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia
October 15, 2013—Present

The U.S. Relations with South Asia Roundtable Series is an ongoing series that provides a forum for leading U.S. and South Asia experts to analyze domestic and foreign policy in the region, with a focus on business and economic issues.

Recent Activity from Asia Unbound

CFR Events

Conference Call

Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call Series: Religion and Politics in India


Alyssa Ayres, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations, Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
February 19, 2014

This meeting is on the record.




Asia Society: "Asia 2025: A Path Toward Peace and Prosperity"

Alyssa Ayres serves as a panelist in an event convened by Asia Society in New York alongside the former prime minister of Pakistan, China's ambassador to the U.S., senior vice president for Asian and Japan chair at CSIS, Singapore's ambassador to the U.S., and the CEO for Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Americas at Standard Chartered. The panel discussion was part of a half-day forum marking the formal launch of the Asia Society Policy Institute.


Video Interview

Why India's Election Matters

CFR's Alyssa Ayres appears on the Wall Street Journal Live "OpinionJournal" to explain what's at stake as the world's largest democracy heads to the polls.


Video Interview

India’s Orwellian Book Bans

CFR's Alyssa Ayres appears on the Wall Street Journal Live "OpinionJournal" to explain the limits of free speech in India after Penguin India decided to withdraw from the market Wendy Doniger's book, The Hindus: An Alternative History.



U.S. Reaches Out to India’s Modi

In the Wall Street Journal, Alyssa Ayres comments on the U.S. decision to establish contact with Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party's candidate for prime minister, and the Indian court decision not to prosecute Modi due to insufficient evidence of his involvement in the 2002 Gujarat communal riots.


Indian Envoy Returns Home After U.S. Indictment

In the Wall Street Journal, Alyssa Ayres comments on the state of U.S.-India relations in light of the return of Devyani Khobragade, the Indian consular official indicted for visa fraud, to India.


Alyssa Ayres is senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. She served most recently as deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia during 2010–2013, covering all issues across a dynamic region of 1.3 billion people (India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, and Bhutan), and providing policy direction and support for four U.S. embassies and four consulates. Trained originally as a cultural historian, she has experience in the nonprofit, government, and private sectors, and has carried out research on both India and Pakistan.

Prior to serving in the Obama Administration, Dr. Ayres led the India and South Asia practice at McLarty Associates, the Washington-based international strategic advisory firm, from 2008–2010. She joined the firm after serving in the U.S. Department of State as special assistant to the undersecretary for political affairs as a Council on Foreign Relations international affairs fellow. Prior to that she worked in the nonprofit sector at the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania, and at the Asia Society in New York.

Her book on nationalism, culture, and politics in Pakistan, Speaking Like a State, was published worldwide by Cambridge University Press in 2009, and received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies book prize for 2011–2012. She has co-edited three books on India and Indian foreign policy: Power Realignments in Asia (Sage 2009), India Briefing: Takeoff at Last? and India Briefing: Quickening the Pace of Change (ME Sharpe 2002 and 2005).

Dr. Ayres has been awarded numerous fellowships, and has received four group or individual Superior Honor Awards for work at the State Department. She speaks fluent Hindi and Urdu, and in the mid–1990s worked as an interpreter for the International Committee of the Red Cross. She received an AB magna cum laude from Harvard College, and an MA and PhD from the University of Chicago, where her dissertation was defended with distinction. She is a former term member, and has been a life member of CFR since 2010.