Speaker Lauds U.S.-India Ties

Xenia Dormandy, former Director for South Asia at the National Security Council, discussed the future of U.S. relations with South Asia at an event hosted by the South Asian Association (SAA) last night.

Stressing that she was speaking as a private individual and that her views did not represent those of the U.S. government, Dormandy recounted her experiences working in the National Security Council and her hopes for U.S. relationships with South Asian countries, especially India, into the future.

“People have two perceptions of the National Security Council,” she said. “The image that it is a facilitator and its image as a decision maker. It’s a huge responsibility because the decisions could impact the lives of millions.”

Dormandy said she was lucky to work for an administration that placed a high priority on relations with South Asia. According to Dormandy, the attention on the region could not have come at a more crucial time. While she singled out India for sharing the U.S. government’s vision to promote peace and security, she warned that the heavily Muslim country of Bangladesh is “going downhill really fast.”

She pointed to February’s U.S.-India summit as a sign of the region’s increasing importance.

“The influence of India globally is going up,” she said. “It’s not whether it will rise, but a matter of how fast.”

She said the U.S. government is not threatened by India’s economic growth, despite concerns of outsourcing and technology transfer.

According to Dormandy, the government welcomes India’s stronger global presence and hopes that it will set an example for the region.

“It’s a multi-religious, multi-ethnic democracy that has existed in some form or another for many decades,” said Dormandy. “There is a lesson to be learned from them and I wish they would take a more proactive role to teach that.”

Dormandy, who spoke for over an hour to an audience of about 20 in the Adams Upper Common Room, also discussed the importance of free media and checks and balances to a democracy.

Dormandy worked at the National Security Council until August 2005. She is currently the executive director of research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her areas of specialty include counterterrorism, nonproliferation, and other law enforcement areas such as narcotics, corruption, and homeland security.

Students in attendance said they enjoyed the frank discussion.

“I am from India, so it was really good to hear the U.S. perspective,” said Gokul Madhanan ’08. “It gives me a lot of hope for U.S.-India relations to see that there are really informed people working on the issues.”

“It is very rare for us to get someone that big to participate in this type of personal discussion and I was really happy that so many people contributed,” said SAA Academic and Political Chair Rohan Kekre ’08, who coordinated the event.