Biden administration names Atul Keshap as new chargé d’affaires in India

Published on Jun 30, 2021 12:32 AM IST

New Delhi The Joe Biden administration on Tuesday named Atul Keshap, a career diplomat and an old South Asia hand, as the new chargé d’affaires in India, saying the appointment will reinforce the bilateral partnership and collaboration in the fight against Covid-19

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New Delhi

The Joe Biden administration on Tuesday named Atul Keshap, a career diplomat and an old South Asia hand, as the new chargé d’affaires in India, saying the appointment will reinforce the bilateral partnership and collaboration in the fight against Covid-19.

Keshap will replace former deputy secretary of state Daniel Smith, whom the US had appointed the chargé d’affaires in New Delhi in May to spearhead cooperation on shared priorities, including overcoming the global pandemic. Keshap will depart for New Delhi following the retirement of Smith, the US state department said.

“Ambassador Keshap will bring a wealth of experience to the role, having served previously at US embassy New Delhi and as deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia,” the state department spokesperson said.

Keshap most recently served as the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for the bureau of East Asian and Pacific affairs in the state department and as the US envoy to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. He has also been active in advancing the US agenda for the Indo-Pacific.

The appointment of Keshap, a career member of the senior foreign service, “will reinforce the close US partnership with the government and people of India, demonstrated by our collaboration to overcome global challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic”, the spokesperson said.

The ambassadorial position in New Delhi is among several key posts around the world that are yet to be filled by the Biden administration. The previous ambassador, Kenneth Juster, was a political appointee of the previous administration and stepped down following Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election.

Smith carried the highest US foreign service rank of career ambassador. His appointment was announced a day after the US began rushing equipment and materials, including oxygen-related gear and raw materials for Covid-19 vaccines, to support India’s response to a deadly second wave of coronavirus infections.

Keshap’s appointment comes at a time when the focus in the region is on the fallout of the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan. Indian officials believe the drawdown of American forces could be completed as early as July, well ahead of the Biden administration’s deadline of September 11. The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan amid a surge in attacks by the Taliban has become a cause for concern across the region.

The son of Keshap Chander Sen, a UN development economist from the Punjab, and Zoe Calvert, a member of the US foreign service, Keshap served at the US embassy in New Delhi during 2005-08 and was involved in negotiations that led to the India-US civil nuclear agreement.

His parents met and married in London and Keshap was born in Nigeria in 1971. He also served as deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia during 2013-15 and did a stint as director of the office of human rights, humanitarian and social affairs during 2008-10.

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