US senate on Tuesday confirmed Richard Rahul Verma as the next ambassador to India, sending him to his country of origin which his parents left in the 60s. Rich Verma, as he is popularly called, was confirmed by a voice vote by a senate that’s preparing for its own handover, passing from Democratic leadership to Republican.
Being a former congressional aide and having worked the Hill as secretary of state Hilary Clinton’s legislative affairs man, Verma’s confirmation was always expected to be smooth.
The hearing on December 2 had gone off well too.
Now Verma is off to New Delhi — though it’s not clear when. After he does, and settles down, diplomatic cables between India and US will have plenty of Indian-sounding signatures.
Nisha Biswal, the head of state department’s South and Central Asia desk, which oversees missions in India, is also an Indian American and so is Atul Keshap, one of her deputies.
USAID administrator Raj Shah is the senior-most Indian American in President Obama’s administration, with a cabinet position. Biswal used to be his deputy.
“It’s become a little difficult nowadays to tell US officials from their Indian counterparts during bilaterals,” said an Indian diplomat, obviously exaggerating for effect.
Verma’s parents came to the United States from Punjab in the early 60s. His father taught at the University of Pittsburgh and his mother was a school teacher. Verma was their youngest.
After studying law, he served in the US air force, and then worked on the Hill as a foreign policy aide to Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Clinton brought him to state.
And now ambassador to India.
It is “a historic day for both the US-India strategic partnership and the Indian American community”, said Ronak D Desai, an academic specialising in India-US relations.
The 3.1 million-strong Indian American diaspora followed his confirmation process closely and celebrations broke out on Twitter as soon he was voted through.