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Who Has Obama's Ear On India?

Obama's presidential foreign policy team is, of course, not yet filled out. And his spokespeople don't like to single out specific advisors. But based on the word of regional experts and published reports, it's possible to identify a few key figures who closely advised the campaign and are quite likely offering their input right now.

One is Jonah Blank, a former foreign correspondent (and author of a historically-based travelogue through India) who also served as the top South Asia specialist on the Senate Foreign Relations under Joe Biden.

Bruce Reidel of the Brookings Institution spent a long career at the CIA and State Department and National Security Council. Reidel advocates a new push to resolve the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir as a way of defusing tensions in the region.

And there's Karl Inderfurth, currently a professor at George Washington U's Elliott School of International Affairs, another veteran of the foreign policy bureaucracy who was assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs in Bill Clinton's second term. His name is often mentioned in Indian media as a possible US Ambassador to New Delhi.

Biden, by the way, is a pretty good advisor on the region himself: Among other things he was the Senate steward of the controversial US-India nuclear cooperation bill earlier this year, which meant quite a lot to New Delhi. And with his usual hyperbole, he also told an online Indian outlet two years ago: "My dream is that in 2020 the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States."

That said, it's Obama's top campaign foreign policy advisors, including Denis McDonough and Mark Lippert, who have been working overtime today and briefing the president-elect.

Even if the Mumbai attacks wind up being a tragic but passing event with no lasting consequences, these people are likely to play an important role as Obama reframes US policy in the region as part of a new focus on saving Afghanistan. All seem to support the pronounced move in recent years toward closer US ties with India, in part as a regional counterweight to China, as illustrated by the nuclear cooperation agreement, which many non-proliferation hardliners hated.

--Michael Crowley