Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal might have problems with the label "Indian-American", but not the new US ambassador to India, Richard Rahul Verma. Verma, while speaking at a panel discussion in Delhi, underscored that he is the first 'Indian-American' US ambassador to India.
“My parents, like many other immigrants before them, left India in the 1960s and came to the US with just a few dollars in their pocket and managed to raise five children,” said Verma at the discussion organised by the India-chapter of the Brookings Institution.
Verma’s unambiguous comments about his Indian origins come at a time when Jindal raised a storm by stressing that he was only an American, rejecting his Indian origins as a label.
Jindal gave a speech last week stating his position on the dual identity that other Indian-Americans grapple with. While the speech was on tackling terrorism networks, it also reflected his views on the question of identity.
“We came to the US to be Americans and not Indian-Americans”, Jindal said and also chose to highlight it when he posted his speech on the micro-blogging site, Twitter.
Interestingly, Jindal is a Republican, hoping to take a shot at the Presidential race two years from now, while Verma is a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. He worked with several public representatives in various capacities before moving back to the US government under President Obama.
Verma, the youngest of his siblings joined the US Air Force as law officer and served in the Judge Advocate General’s department, before moving to other branches of the US government. His father, Kamal Dev Verma, originally from Punjab, moved to the US with his wife Savitri and became a professor of English literature at the University of Pittsburg.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee took little time to confirm Verma’s appointment as the ambassador to India, displaying a very rare urgency. US policy watchers view his smooth appointment as evidence of the renewed US interest in repairing Indo-US ties and taking them to a higher level after the controversies last year.
The bilateral relationship suffered a major blow when Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested on charges of human trafficking. This led to a furious reaction from the US government and the then ambassador, Nancy Powell, who departed several months ago. The position was kept open since then till the US Senate confirmed Verma’s appointment soon after he was picked up by President Obama.