Washington: US President-elect Joe Biden has named Uzra Zeya, an Indian-American diplomat who quit her State Department job in protest against the outgoing administration’s alleged racial and sexist bias, as his Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.
Confirming the development on Saturday night, Zeya tweeted: “In my 25+years as a diplomat, I learned that America’s greatest strength is the power of our example, diversity & democratic ideals. I will uphold and defend these values, if confirmed, as Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.
“Thank you, President-elect Biden for centering democracy and human rights in US foreign policy and the opportunity to serve the American people once more alongside the heroic women and men at the State Department. It’s the honour of a lifetime to be among such all-star nominees.”
Zeya, who has more than two decades of experience with the Department of State and has expertise in Near East, South Asian, Europe, human rights and multilateral affairs, was nominated on January 16, The American Bazaar reported.
Universal rights, strengthening democracy
“Zeya will be a champion for putting universal rights and strengthening democracy at the centre of our efforts to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” the Biden transition team said while announcing her nomination.
Zeya, who joined the US Foreign Service in 1990, left the State Department in 2018, alleging that Outgoing President Donald Trump’s administration was bent on reversing decades of gains made by minorities and women under secretaries like Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton.
In an article published by Politico, she wrote that “a quieter trend unfolded” under then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “the exclusion of minorities from top leadership positions in the State Department and embassies abroad”.
In her nearly three-decade-long stint at the State Department, Zeya served in a number of roles, including as Charge d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission at US Embassy in Paris from 2014 to 2017; as Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor from 2012 to 2014; and as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of State from 2011 to 2012.
She has served as US diplomat in capitals such as New Delhi, Muscat, Damascus, Cairo and Kingston.
Zeya joins a long list of India-Americans appointed by Biden as members of his administration.
Most recently, Sameera Fazili, who traces her family’s roots to Kashmir, was appointed as Deputy Director, National Economic Council; while health policy expert Vidur Sharma was named as the testing adviser on Biden’s Covid-19 Response Team.
On January 14, the Biden transition team announced the nomination of two Indian-Americans, Sonia Aggarwal as the climate policy adviser, and Garima Verma as the Digital Director for the President-elect’s wife.
Other key Indian-American nominees include Neera Tanden, who will be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Surgeon-General Vivek Murthy, Assistant Press Secretary Vedant Patel, Director of speechwriting Vinay Reddy and Gautam Raghavan, the Deputy Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel.
At the powerful National Security Council, the nominees are Tarun Chhabra, Senior Director for Technology and National Security; Sumona Guha, Senior Director for South Asia, and Shanthi Kalathil, Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights.