By: | Muhammad Ali Azlan |
The appointment of Brigadier-General Robin Fontes as senior director for India, Pakistan and Central Asia at the NSC came a day after Trump’s national security adviser (NSA) Michael Flynn resigned amid controversy, worrying India. Flynn was the only cabinet-ranking member of the Trump administration who had met his Indian counterpart, NSA Ajit Doval, in Washington last month.
The appointment of Fontes has helped reassure New Delhi that India’s concerns will find voice in the Trump administration’s national security considerations, senior officials familiar with the outgoing defence attache told an imminent newspaper.
Fontes had demonstrated an understanding for both India’s security concerns – involving Pakistan and China principally – and the potential for gains from a tighter strategic handshake between the two sides during her two years at the US embassy here, the officials said.
It was an understanding she also appeared to carry with her to New Delhi, when she was appointed attache by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) – to which she belongs – in December 2014.
“(India) is a very important country to (the United States) in the Pacific Region,” Fontes said, in a December 10, 2014, statement from the Pentagon. “Developing good relations with India is key to meeting our national security objectives.”
Fontes is the first woman to have been appointed defence attache at the US embassy in New Delhi. She will now be replaced here by Brigadier-General David E. Brigham, currently the deputy director in charge of strategy, plans and policy in the office of the deputy chief of the US army. Brigham has served in Germany, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Korea.
Fontes’s mandate also feeds into suggestions the Indian government has received in its early interactions with the Trump administration that it would like New Delhi to take on a larger security role in Central Asia, including Afghanistan.
The White House, in a read-out on Trump’s telephone conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 24, said the two leaders “discussed security in the region of South and Central Asia”.