Newspapers have already mentioned Ashley Tellis as possible US Ambassador to India. Tellis, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and formerly Special Assistant to US President George W Bush and, earlier still, Special Adviser to US Ambassador Robert Blackwill, in which capacity he was, over a decade back,the prime American driver in New Delhi of the nuclear deal. He is the most likely appointee, not little because he has enormous traction with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government. His advice apparently is so prized he has ready access to prime minister Narendra Modi that few other Americans and fewer Indians enjoy. The affable Tellis’ best attribute is a keen mind, smooth and convincing manner, and the gift of gab. He can make what’s essentially in the US’ interest appear — even when it is patently not — to be even more in India’s! That’s a tested and proven talent which Washington no doubt considers an invaluable diplomatic asset, not to be wasted. As far as the Indian government is concerned, Tellis apparently manifests “the brain gain”, not “brain drain”, that Modi said at the annual pravasi diwas celebrations in Bangalore the NRIs/PIOs represent. Except (in this case), the gain is America’s. But why quibble, “gain” is gain.
Tellis may get a nod for yet another reason. With him as US ambassador, Carnegie will have a one-two punch in Delhi, with the C. Raja Mohan-led chapter of that Washington thinktank cultivating a bedrock of support in this country for the US line, which makes any US ambassador’s job that much easier.
Tellis has the inside track on the appointment. But two other persons are reportedly also in the running, both women as well as think-tankers — Lisa Curis, former CIA analyst and senior researcher at the rightwing Heritage Foundation in Washington that fills out Republican Party policies with appropriate content, and Alyssa Ayres, US deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, 2010-2013, currently at the Council on Foreign Relations. Ayres has a close India connection in her spouse, Sadanand Dhume, formerly a reporter with the extinct Far Eastern Economic Review and now with yet another thinktank, the American Enterprise Institute.