US President-elect Joe Biden has nominated at least 20 Indian-Americans, including 13 women, to key positions in his incoming administration, a record for the small ethnic community that constitutes one per cent of America’s population. As many as 17 of them, including Neera Tanden who has been nominated as the Director of Management and Budget, would be part of the Biden administration in the powerful White House complex.
The January 20th inauguration, the 59th in all, where Biden, 78, would be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States is already historic in the making as for the first time ever a woman, Kamala Harris, would be sworn as the Vice-President of the country. Harris, 56, is also the first ever Indian-origin and African-American to be sworn in as the Vice President of the United States. It is also for the first time ever that so many Indian-Americans have been roped into a presidential administration ever before the inauguration. Biden, a Democrat, is still quite far away from filling all the positions in his administration.
Topping the list is Tanden, who has been nominated as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget and Dr Vivek Murthy, who has been nominated as the US Surgeon General.
Vanita Gupta has been nominated as Associate Attorney General Department of Justice, and on Saturday, Biden nominated former foreign service official Uzra Zeya as the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights.
“The dedication that the Indian-American community has shown to public service over the years has been recognised in a big way at the very start of this administration! I am particularly pleased that the overwhelming majority are women. Our community has truly arrived in serving the nation,” Indiaspora founder M R Rangaswami told PTI.
Mala Adiga has been appointed as Policy Director to the future First Lady Dr Jill Biden and Garima Verma would be the Digital Director of the Office of the First Lady, while Sabrina Singh has been named as the White House Deputy Press Secretary.
For the first time, the Indian-Americans nominated for Biden administration include two who trace their roots to Kashmir: Aisha Shah, who has been named as Partnership Manager at the White House Office of Digital Strategy and Sameera Fazili, who would occupy the key position of Deputy Director at the US National Economic Council (NEC) in the White House.
White House National Economic Council also has another Indian-American, Bharat Ramamurti, as Deputy Director. Gautam Raghavan, who served at the White House in the previous Obama administration returns to the White House as Deputy Director in Office of Presidential Personnel.
Among Biden’s inner circle is his top confidant for years Vinay Reddy, who has been named as Director Speechwriting. Young Vedant Patel is all set to occupy a seat in the White House lower press, behind the briefing room, as Assistant Press Secretary to the President. He is only the third-ever Indian American to be part of the White House press shop.
Three Indian-Americans have made their way to the crucial National Security Council of the White House, thus leaving a permanent imprint on the country’s foreign policy and national security.
They are Tarun Chhabra: Senior Director for Technology and National Security, Sumona Guha, Senior Director for South Asia, Shanthi Kalathil: Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights.
Sonia Aggarwal has been named Senior Advisor for Climate Policy and Innovation in the Office of the Domestic Climate Policy at the White House and Vidur Sharma has been appointed as Policy Advisor for Testing for the White House COVID-19 Response Team.
Two Indian-American women have been appointed to the Office of the White House Counsel: Neha Gupta as Associate Counsel and Reema Shah as Deputy Associate Counsel.
Also, for the first time in any administration, the White House would have three other South Asians in key positions — Pakistani-American Ali Zaidi as Deputy National Climate Advisor White House; Sri Lankan American Rohini Kosoglu as Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President and Bangladeshi-American Zayn Siddique: Senior Advisor to the White House Deputy Chief of Staff.
During the campaign, Biden had indicated that he would rope in a large number of Indian-Americans.
“As President, I’ll also continue to rely on Indian-American diaspora that keeps our two nations together, as I have throughout my career,” Biden had said in his address to the Indian-American community during a virtual celebration of India’s Independence Day on August 15, 2020.
“My constituents in Delaware, my staff in the Senate, the Obama-Biden administration, which had more Indian-Americans than any other administration in the history of this country and this campaign with Indian Americans at senior levels, which of course includes the top of the heap, our dear friend (Harris) who will be the first Indian-American vice president in the history of the United States of America,” Biden had said in his video address.
Biden and Harris will be sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States during a largely-virtual swearing-in ceremony on January 20.
But it won’t be a typical inauguration, for several reasons. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and fresh security concerns following a pro-Trump mob breaching the Capitol last week have combined to force some major changes to what is a historical American day.