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 (India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, and Bhutan), and providing policy direction 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, 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 (Sage, 2009), India Briefing: Takeoff at Last? and India Briefing: Quickening the Pace of Change (ME Sharpe, 2002 and 2005). 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.
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.