November 2, 2012
Colloquium Speaker: Polly Nayak
Polly (Mary) Nayak
Now an independent consultant, Polly Nayak retired from CIA in late 2002 as a senior executive. A longtime South Asia expert, she was the Intelligence Community’s senior expert and manager on the region from1995 to 2001. As such, she helped shape intelligence analysis and crisis support to the White House and Congress during a period when India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons, the two nuclear powers fought in Kashmir, the Taliban took over most of Afghanistan, and Al Qaida established its presence there. She regularly participated in Deputies and Principals Committee meetings.
As a President’s Daily Briefer, Ms. Nayak routinely briefed the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and National Security Adviser on worldwide developments. Prior to that, she served as deputy chief of African Analysis, arriving on the job as US troops landed in Somalia. Still earlier, she headed a key Latin America analysis program. She was a 2001-2002 Federal Executive Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Since late 2002, Ms. Nayak has consulted for and provided analysis to government and private sector clients on issues ranging from terrorism and insurgency to nuclear proliferation, political stability, foreign relations, and business climate, with special emphasis on South Asia. Her customers have included senior officials and staff, business groups, government agencies, and non-profit groups. Ms. Nayak directed a study (and a senior working group) on US civilian aid to Pakistan at the Woodrow Wilson International Center from January to July 2011. She was a member of the Pakistan Policy Working Group (The Next Chapter – The United States and Pakistan) and of the Council on Foreign Relations-Asia Society Independent Task Force (New Priorities in South Asia: US Policy Toward India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.)
Ms. Nayak’s publications in 2011-2012 included two monographs--Aiding Without Abetting, on US aid to Pakistan (published by the Woodrow Wilson Center), and The Unfinished Crisis: US Crisis Management After the 2008 Mumbai Attacks, co-authored with Michael Krepon (Stimson Center). She also published two book chapters in 2011--“Prospects for U.S.-India Counter Terrorism Cooperation: An Historical Perspective” (in Counter Terrorism in South Asia, KWE Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi) and “U.S. Crisis Management in South Asia’s Twin Peaks Crisis” (co-authored with Michael Krepon--in The India-Pakistan Military Standoff, edited by Zachary S. Davis, Palgrave Macmillan.) Polly is working on a book about how senior US foreign policy makers receive and use information and insights from foreign area experts and “learn” foreign regions, and what role such area expertise should play in the future.
Ms. Nayak serves on advisory panels for several government entities and on an advisory board for the MIT-based Seminar XXI program for rising US civilian and military officials. She lectures often on US foreign policy, South Asia, and terrorism, and has taught part of the Foreign Service Institute South Asia course for nearly nine years. She also teaches courses on analytic techniques to US government officials.
Before entering government, Ms. Nayak was part of a South Asian corporate team negotiating turn-key projects in Latin America. She earlier worked on Mid-East refugee issues in Boston and examined the effects of South Asian migration to the Persian Gulf on both sending and receiving countries at the MIT Center for International studies. Her academic fields at Harvard (A.B.), the Fletcher School (M.A.), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (advanced course work) included political economy, comparative politics, international security issues, analytic methodologies, and sociology/social psychology/anthropology focusing mainly on Asia and Latin America.
The focus here will be on how India makes key external-security decisions—e.g., war plans, use of force, and major defense acquisitions. The US clearly has high stakes in Indian security choices: a rising India can be seen as a counterweight to China, India can be seen as a geopolitical/security partner for the US, and as a mega-arms purchaser, India can be seen as a major market for US arms, with the bonus of US-Indian interoperability. Why focus on how India makes these decisions? The U.S. tends to focus on outputs/outcomes of high concern to the U.S. We often infer India’s intentions from what India decides, ignoring how it decides and what internal factors influence choices. But anticipating what India will do, keeping U.S. expectations realistic, and monitoring the potential for closer collaboration require a deeper understanding of several factors. What are the underlying debates that shape India’s external-security decisions? Who really decides what in India? Who/what can be mustered to inform and support decision making? What are the domestic pressures on decision makers?