24 July, 2021

Shifting Mandate

The South Asia Bureau faces long overdue structural changes

Shifting Mandate

IS the Clinton Administration getting ready to scrap the South Asia Bureau in the State Department? Created in 1991 by legislative mandate to focus US policy more strongly on the region, the bureau has had its share of criticism from Washington thinktanks, the Administration and Congress. Some critics believe that—in hindsight—there was no reason for creating another bureau in an already top-heavy department. Supporters, however, feel that it has more than justified its existence.

The bureau arose from an act of Congress called the State Department Authorisation Bill, 1991, in which former Representative Stephen Solarz (Democrat, New York) and Sen. Patrick Moynihan (Democrat, New York) joined hands to pass a legislation mandating a separate bureau for the South Asia region to be headed by an assistant secretary. The bureau was, in fact, created by splitting it away from the former Near East and South Asia Bureau.

Since the bureau was created by legislative mandate, it caused certain problems for the State Department. The...

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