Alyssa Ayres is senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). At CFR her work focuses on India’s role in the world and on U.S. relations with South Asia. In 2015, she served as the project director for the CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force on U.S.-India Relations, and from 2014 to 2016, as the project director for an initiative on the new geopolitics of China, India, and Pakistan. She directs the U.S. Relations with South Asia Roundtable series, blogs regularly for Asia Unbound, and is a contributor to Forbes.com. Her book about India’s rise on the world stage, Our Time Has Come: How India is Making Its Place in the World, was published by Oxford University Press in January 2018.
Ayres served in the Obama administration in a senior leadership role 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 (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka). In that position she was responsible for developing and implementing U.S. policies in coordination with other agencies and departments while providing policy direction and support to U.S. embassies, including Embassy New Delhi–one of the largest U.S. missions anywhere in the world.
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. Since 2014, she has served as a part-time senior advisor to McLarty Associates. From 2007 to 2008, 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.
Originally trained as a cultural historian, Ayres’s professional experience has crossed the nonprofit, government, and private sectors, and she has carried out research on both India and Pakistan. Her book on nationalism, culture, and politics in Pakistan, Speaking Like a State, was published worldwide by Cambridge University Press in 2009, and received an 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, India Briefing: Takeoff at Last?, and India Briefing: Quickening the Pace of Change. Ayres has been awarded numerous fellowships and has received four group or individual Superior Honor Awards for work at the State Department. She speaks 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 of CFR and a life member since 2010.