Richard Verma could leave India as Trump team asks envoys to quit posts by January 20 | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Richard Verma could leave India as Trump team asks envoys to quit posts by January 20

US ambassador to India Richard Verma could be among President Barack Obama’s politically appointed envoys ordered to return home by the Donald Trump transition team before the president-elect is inaugurated on January 20.

world Updated: Jan 07, 2017 00:31 IST
Yashwant Raj
Richard Verma, who became the first Indian American to serve US ambassador to India in 2014, is a political appointee.
Richard Verma, who became the first Indian American to serve US ambassador to India in 2014, is a political appointee. (FILE )


US ambassador to India Richard Verma could be among President Barack Obama’s politically appointed envoys ordered to return home by the Donald Trump transition team before the president-elect is inaugurated on January 20.

It could not be ascertained if Verma was included, but a state department note cited by The New York Times, which first reported the mass recall, said the blanket order was to be enforced “without exceptions” to all political appointees.

Verma, who became the first Indian American to serve US ambassador to India in 2014, is a political appointee. A lawyer by training, he was assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the state department when Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state.

While it is usual for incoming administrations to recall political appointees from the previous regime, Trump transition team’s blanket order was found to be too severe, as it makes no exceptions -- not even for those with school-going children.

In the past, people in such situations were allowed to continue till the end of the school year. US ambassador to Costa Rica, for instance, is said to be looking for a house or an apartment to stay on till his four children finished their school year.

There are two other Indian Americans appointed ambassador by Obama — Atul Keshap to Sri Lanka and Geeta Passi to the Republic of Chad — but they are not likely to be impacted by the recall as they are both career diplomats.

There was no word immediately about Swati Dandekar, an Indian American Obama sent to the Asian Development Bank as executive director, which is an ambassador rank position. She is an Iowa politician and a political appointee, like Verma.

The Trump team’s order, contained in a state department note from December 23, will leave many US critical missions without ambassadors for a long time, as their replacements will have to be confirmed by the Senate.

It took Verma, for instance, four months to from his nomination in September. He was confirmed by the Senate in December and finally took charge in New Delhi in January 2015. And now he may have to return just about two years later.

Trump has so far announced only two nominees for ambassadorship — Iowa governor Terry Branstad to China and David M Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer, to Israel. The blanket recall now opens up scores of other vacancies to fill.

India, Germany, Canada and Britain will be among them.

A Trump transition team official has said these recalls were ordered just to ensure political appointees abroad left on schedule as would be all others serving in the federal government at home, as is the practice.

But Trump is not letting go of all Obama appointees. He has asked Preet Bharara, the Indian American US attorney for the southern district of New York that has jurisdiction over Wall Street, to continue. Bharara has said he is staying.