President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated former state department official Richard Rahul Verma, an Indian-American, as the next US ambassador to India.
Verma served as secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s point man on legislative affairs, working Capitol Hill using his experience there as a long-time congressional aide.
In 2008, he was on President Barack Obama’s transition team, which essentially eases into office the new administration, working with the outgoing administration.
And that, it was said, could indicate his proximity to the White House, an important barometer for New Delhi to measure the state of relations, and the effectiveness of the ambassador.
“He is committed to building the US-India relationship, has access to the highest levels of the White House, and is exactly who we need at the helm as we look to further strengthen US-India relations,” said congressman Joe Crowley in a statement.
The US was widely expected to announce a new ambassador to New Delhi before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, and DC to meet President Obama end of this month.
The previous US ambassador to US, Nancy Powell, left in less than pleasant circumstances, having fallen foul of the Indian government during the Khobragade controversy.
With Verma’s appointment as ambassador in Delhi, US state department’s South Asia desk, which oversees relations with India, will have a distinctly Indian feel to it.
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Nisha Biswal, an Indian-American from Gujarat, heads the desk. And Atul Keshap, also of Indian descent — who served at the US embassy in Delhi, is one of her assistant deputy secretaries.
But Verma is not moving to Delhi tomorrow. His nomination has to be confirmed by Senate, where, however, he is not expected to encounter any major trouble or delay.
He currently serves as senior counselor at Steptoe & Johnson and the Albright Stonebridge Group, founded and run by Bill Clinton administration officials including Madeline Albright.
Verma is also a senior national security fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington DC think tank.
He was senior national security advisor, counsel and foreign policy advisor to senate majority leader Harry Reid from 2002 to 2007. Verma also served with the US air force.