image

Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia

Expertise

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

Bio

Alyssa Ayres is senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). At CFR she conducts two projects, one focused on India’s role in the world, and one on the new geopolitics of China, India, and Pakistan. In 2015, she served as the project director for the CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force on U.S.-India Relations. She directs the U.S. Relations with South Asia Roundtable series, blogs regularly for Asia Unbound, and is a contributor to Forbes.com. She is writing a book about India’s rise on the world stage.

Ayres served previously as deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia from 2010 to 2013, covering all issues across a dynamic region of 1.3 billion people (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka) and providing policy direction for four U.S. embassies and four consulates. Originally trained as a cultural historian, Ayres has experience in the nonprofit, government, and private sectors, and she has carried out research on both India and Pakistan.

Prior to serving in the Obama administration, Ayres was founding director of the India and South Asia practice at McLarty Associates, the Washington-based international strategic advisory firm, from 2008 to 2010. Immediately prior, she served in the U.S. Department of State as special assistant to the undersecretary for political affairs as a CFR 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 coedited three books on India and Indian foreign policy: Power Realignments in Asia, India Briefing: Takeoff at Last?, and India Briefing: Quickening the Pace of Change. 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 of CFR, and she has been a life member since 2010.

India's Role in the World

India's rise to power has led to speculation and expectations about how it will change the global order. On the one hand, India is the world's most populous country and is on track to become the world's third largest economy. Yet India is still home to the world's largest number of poor. India is also the largest and most diverse democracy, but hesitates to promote these values abroad. As the United States welcomes and supports India's rise, Americans should better understand Indians' ambitions for themselves and for their global role—ambitions that are still debated within India. In my forthcoming book, blog posts, and articles, I focus on the live debates in Indian foreign and economic policy shaping India's future course. I also convene the U.S. Relations with South Asia Roundtable Series to address the challenges and opportunities facing the U.S.-India relationship.

The New Geopolitics of China, India, and Pakistan

The emergence of China and more recently, India, has reshaped relations and produced a broader area of economic integration in Asia. Even in southern Asia, where the strategic triangle of China, India, and Pakistan has resulted in flashpoints and suspicions, both India and China have kept their sights on increasing trade and economic growth as a security imperative for the long term. However, southern Asia's security, political, and economic foundations face stresses that could profoundly alter its evolution, usher in the return of geopolitics, and reshape political and economic relations globally. This project will explore potential flashpoints and promising areas for cooperation among China, India, and Pakistan—and identify areas where the United States can help. Over the next two years, I will explore these issues with my colleagues Elizabeth Economy and Daniel Markey in the New Geopolitics of China, India, and Pakistan Roundtable Series and several publications. The project will culminate in a capstone symposium and a Council report in 2016.

The Project on the New Geopolitics of China, India, and Pakistan is made possible by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

All Publications

Article

U.S. Relations With India

Author: Alyssa Ayres

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on May 24, 2016, Alyssa Ayres discussed areas of progress and the importance of managing expectations in U.S.-India relations. Drawing on recommendations made by the 2015 CFR Independent Task Force on U.S.-India Relations, Ayres recommended reframing the bilateral relationship as a joint venture instead of as a not-quite alliance, arguing that such a shift would allow for increased cooperation in areas of convergence without letting differences undermine progress.

See more in India; United States; Diplomacy and Statecraft

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.

Read full answer

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.

Read full answer

See more in Bangladesh; Society and Culture; Economics

Book

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

Recent Activity from Asia Unbound

CFR Events

Meeting ⁄ Washington

Report Launch of the CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force on U.S.-India Relations

Speakers Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations; Task Force Project Director

, C. Fred Bergsten

Senior Fellow and Director Emeritus, Peterson Institute for International Economics; Task Force Member

, Joseph S. Nye Jr.

University Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard University; Task Force Co-chair

November 17, 2015 12:15 p.m.-1:45 p.m.

November 17, 2015

This meeting is on the record.

Read Watch

Meeting ⁄ New York

Report Launch of CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force on U.S.-India Relations

Speakers Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations; Task Force Project Director

, Nicholas Burns

Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard University; Task Force Member

, Charles R. Kaye

Co-chief Executive Officer, Warburg Pincus; Task Force Co-chair


Presider Michelle Caruso-Cabrera

Chief International Correspondent, CNBC

November 12, 2015 2:00 p.m.-3:15 p.m.


2:00 p.m.–2:15 p.m. Reception
2:15 p.m.–3:15 p.m. Meeting

November 12, 2015

This meeting is on the record.

Read Listen Watch

Meeting

The Challenges of Rebuilding Nepal

Speaker Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations


Moderator Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program and Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

May 14, 2015

This meeting is on the record.

Listen

Symposium

Asia’s New Leaders

Panelists Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations

, Aaron Connelly

Research Fellow, East Asia Program, Lowy Institute for International Policy

, Sheila A. Smith

Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations


Presider Michael Fullilove

Executive Director, Lowy Institute for International Policy

April 21, 2015

This meeting is on the record.

Read Listen Watch

Meeting ⁄ Washington

What To Do About U.S.-India Relations

Speakers Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, U.S. Department of State (2010-2013)

, Robert D. Blackwill

Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, David Rockefeller Studies Program, Council on Foreign Relations; Former U.S. Ambassador to India (2001-2003)

, Stephen P. Cohen

Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution; Former Member, Policy  Planning Staff, U.S. Department of State


Presider John D. Negroponte

Vice Chairman, McLarty Associates;
Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State (2007-2009)

February 4, 2015 12:00–12:30 p.m. - Registration
12:30–1:45 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

Meeting

The U.S.-India Relationship

Speaker Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations


Moderator Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

October 9, 2014 12:00–1:00 p.m. - (ET)

This meeting is on the record.

Listen

Meeting ⁄ New York

The New Indian Government

Speakers Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations

, Jagdish N. Bhagwati

Senior Fellow for International Economics, Council on Foreign Relations

, Robert D. Blackwill

Henry Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations


Presider Charles R. Kaye

Co-Chief Executive Officer, Warburg Pincus LLC

May 28, 2014 12:30–1:00 p.m. - Lunch
1:00–2:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Read ListenWatch

Meeting

Religion and Politics in India

Speaker Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations


Moderator Irina A. Faskianos

Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations

February 19, 2014

This meeting is on the record.

Meeting

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

Speakers 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.

Listen

Meeting ⁄ New York

India Update

Speakers Salman HaidarSenior Fellow, United States Institute of Peace, Ashley J. TellisSenior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Michael KreponPresident Emeritus, The Henry L. Stimson Center
Presider Alyssa AyresDeputy Director, Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania
March 13, 2006

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

U.S. Policy Options to Stabilize the Region

Speakers Alyssa Ayres

Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations

, Marc Grossman

Former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan; Vice Chairman, Cohen Group

, Evan Medeiros

Managing Director and Practice Head, Asia, Eurasia Group


Presider Barnett R. Rubin

Director of Studies and Senior Fellow, Center on International Cooperation

This meeting is not for attribution.

Press/Panels

Article

Why Are Terrorists Openly Recruiting in Pakistan?

Newsweek runs Alyssa Ayres' take in the wake of India's reported cross-Line of Control strike on the half-hearted, or perhaps disingenuous, efforts by Pakistan's government to address the threat of terrorism emanating from its own territory.

Article

India's Surgical Strikes Carried Out in Self-Defense: Experts

Commenting in an article in the Economic Times, Alyssa Ayres analyzes the rationale behind India's reported strike across the Line of Control into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, and explains what the U.S. position will be.

Video Interview

Is Pakistan's Threat of a Nuclear War Real?

Alyssa Ayres joins a panel on India Today's "Headlines Today" to discuss the dangerous threats of nuclear escalation made by Pakistan's defense minister in response to reported Indian military activity.

Watch

Article

Mind your language—The movement for the preservation of Punjabi

An article in Pakistan's leading daily, Dawn, draws from Alyssa Ayres' discussion of Punjabi intellectual Najm Hosain Syed in her book, Speaking Like a State. The article emphasizes Ayres' commentary on Syed's plays in support of her conception of Punjabi elite identity.

Article

Dhaka Restaurant Attack Designed to Reverberate Globally

The Financial Times spoke to Alyssa Ayres and other South Asia experts about how the July 1 attack in Dhaka ties to the rising tensions between secularists and Islamists in Bangladesh’s political environment.

Video Interview

Bangladesh Hostage Crisis

Alyssa Ayres speaks with BBC World News during the Bangladesh hostage crisis refuses to discuss what is known during the unfolding tragedy.

Watch

Video Interview

Opinion Journal: Warming Up to India

Alyssa Ayres speaks to the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal about Prime Minister Modi’s visit and closer U.S.-India defense ties. 

Watch

Article

U.S. Rules Out Putting India, Pakistan in Same Basket

In India Abroad, Alyssa Ayres weighs in on whether the State Department will soon dissolve the office of the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and reinsert those countries inside the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

Article

U.S. Congress Stalls F-16 Sale to Pakistan

The Pioneer cites Alyssa Ayres's commentary on how the United States can best support stability in South Asia with regard to India-PakistU.S. Rules Out an relations.

Article

India Much Too Sensitive to Agree to an Alliance With a Superpower

India Abroad reviews the CFR Independent Task Force report, Working With a Rising India: A Joint Venture for the New Century, and unpacks Task Force co-chair Professor Joseph S. Nye's assertion that a structural realignment is currently taking place in the world.

Article

The Big Shift

India Abroad interviews Task Force project director Dr. Alyssa Ayres about the findings and recommendations of the CFR Independent Task Force report and the need to reconceptualize the U.S.-India relationship.

Article

A Pakistan Policy With Teeth

As a part of a special package on the CFR Independent Task Force report on U.S.-India Relations, India Abroad discusses the report's finding on the influence of U.S. policy toward Pakistan on U.S.-India relations.

Article

'India Now Matters to U.S. Interests in Virtually Every Field'

Following the release of the report of the CFR Independent Task Force on U.S.-India Relations, the Economic Times notes the main takeaways including the importance of maintaining high levels of economic growth and improving India's relationship with Pakistan.

Article

U.S. Urged to Revive India-Pakistan Talks

Dawn News covers the CFR Independent Task Force on U.S.-India Relations report recommendation that the United States should encourage India to improve its relationship with Pakistan.

Article

More U.S. Jets Won't Solve Pakistan's Crippling Woes

Newsweek features Alyssa Ayres's Asia Unbound blog post on the prioritzation of Pakistan's military over human development of its citizens and the latest strategic transaction between the United States and Pakistan.

Video Interview

India and APEC: Charting a Path to Membership

Alyssa Ayres joins an Asia Society Policy Institute panel discussion on Indian membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to present arguments from her 2014 CFR Policy Innovation Memorandum.

Listen

Video Interview

India and APEC: Charting a Path to Membership

The Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) and the Confederation of Indian Industry introduce their new task force aimed at charting a path for India's membership into the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). ASPI President Kevin Rudd leads a discussion on the advantages and impediments to India's entry with Ajay Banga, Shyam Saran, Alyssa Ayres, Fred Bergsten, and Chandrajit Banerjee. (1 hr., 53 min.)

Listen

Video Interview

A Year of Modi: India's Global Ambitions

At the IDFC Institute, Alyssa Ayres participates in an interview assessing Prime Minister Modi's first year in office and U.S.-India relations going forward.

Listen

Video Interview

Bangladesh in Chaos, Needs Democratic Governance

Prothom Alo mentions Alyssa Ayres's participation in a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific hearing on political and religious extremism in Bangladesh.

Listen

Video Interview

U.S. Never Knew Where Warren Weinstein Was

In Bloomberg View, Alyssa Ayres comments on the constraints on aid programs in Pakistan following the announcement of Warren Weinstein's accidental death from a U.S. drone strike while he was being held hostage.

Listen

Video Interview

India and Pakistan's Proxy War in Afghanistan

The Diplomat mentions Alyssa Ayres's Policy Innovation Memorandum, "Why the United States Should Work With India to Stabilize Afghanistan," in an article that discusses Indian and Pakistani involvment in Afghanistan.

Listen

Video Interview

Hillary Clinton Announces Presidential Bid

Appearing on Headlines Today, Alyssa Ayres comments on Hillary Clinton's announcement of her candidacy for president, and what a Clinton presidency would mean for South Asia.

Listen

Video Interview

Blogger Attacks: Murdering the Idea of Bangladesh

A leading Bangladeshi newspaper, Kaler Kantho (Bengali), featured a translation of Alyssa Ayres’s recent Huffington Post India article on the assassinations of atheist bloggers on the front page of its Sunday edition, April 5, 2015.

Listen

Indian Languages Have Few Takers in U.S.

In Zee News, Alyssa Ayres comments on the study of Indian languages in the United States following the release of a survey by the Modern Language Association.

Indian Languages Have Few Takers in the U.S.

In the Times of India, Alyssa Ayres looks at the enrollments in Indian languages in the United States after the release of a survey by the Modern Language Association.

Video Interview

Few Takers for Indian Languages in the U.S.

IBNLive.com cites a blog post on CFR's Asia Unbound by Alyssa Ayres, which looks at Indian language enrollments in the United States following the release of the Modern Language Association's quadrennial survey.

Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister: Aim Higher

In advance of Obama's trip to India, the Asia Society Policy Institute asks leading experts to give their thoughts on the bilateral agenda and what might be accomplished during the summit. Alyssa Ayres writes that both leaders should set their sights on a more ambitious agenda.

Bangladesh's Political Turmoil Intensifies

For Deutsche Welle, Alyssa Ayres comments on political protests in Bangladesh on the one-year anniversary of the January 2014 national elections in Bangladesh.

Radio Interview

10/1 John Batchelor Show

Alyssa Ayres joins the John Batchelor Show to discuss the geopolitical implications of Indian Prime Minister Modi's visit to the United States.

Listen

Prime Minister Modi's Big Bang Trip

At the conclusion of Prime Minister Modi's five-day trip to the United States, Alyssa Ayres joins a panel for NDTV to discuss the outcomes.

Analysis of Modi-Obama Meeting

Alyssa Ayres joins a wrap-up show to analyze Modi's visit to the United States hosted by News X, USINPAC, and the Sunday Guardian.

Times Now: Money Meets Manpower

Alyssa Ayres appears on a panel for the Indian television news channel Times Now to discuss the meetings in Washington between Indian Prime Minister Modi and President Obama.

Narendra Modi to U.S.: Let's Make a Deal

For Mint, Alyssa Ayres writes that Indian Prime Minister Modi's meetings with the U.S. business community will be the ones to watch during his visit to the United States.

India Plays Chicken with the WTO

For Marketplace Morning Report, Alyssa Ayres discusses why India refused to sign the World Trade Organization agreement that was reached in Bali last year.

Xi Calls Modi to APEC Meeting, Scores Over U.S.

Alyssa Ayres's Policy Innovation Memorandum arguing that the United States should support India's membership in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperaton (APEC) forum is cited in the Times of India following Chinese president Xi Jinping's invitation to India's prime minister Modi to attend the next APEC meeting.

China Invites India's Modi for APEC Summit but Rivalry Simmers

After Chinese president Xi Jinping extended an invitation to Indian prime minister Modi to attend the next Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, Alyssa Ayres's Policy Innovation Memorandum arguing that the United States should support India's membership in APEC is cited by Reuters.

Modi Doubles Down on the Neighborhood

For YaleGlobal Online, Alyssa Ayres writes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is focused on a pragmatic economic growth strategy through the strengthening of relations in India's neighborhood.

How Modi Can Bring U.S. Businesses Back to India

For CNNMoney's Fortune, Alyssa writes that Narendra Modi, the newly elected prime minister of the world's largest democracy, has broad support in parliament and backs pro-business policies.

Article

U.S. Media Hails 'India's Moment' in Modi's Historical Win

In a piece highlighting the U.S. reaction to the Indian election results in the Hindustan Times, Alyssa Ayres says that the United States should focus on Narendra Modi's top campaign issue--trade and economics--rather than his past.

USINPAC Post-Election Analysis Webinar

Alyssa Ayres joins Kanwal Sibal, Ashley Tellis, and Anirudh Krishna for a webinar hosted by USINPAC to discuss the results of the Indian election.

The Business of Peace: Modi the Peacemaker?

For Ozy Media, Alyssa Ayres comments on the prospects of normalizing India-Pakistan relations through trade if the nationalist Bharatiya Nationalist Party wins the election as expected.

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.

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.

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.