WASHINGTON (TIP): In what appears to be history in the making, President Barack Obama on Thursday, September 18, nominated an Indian American to be the next US ambassador to India. When Richard (Rich) Rahul Verma takes over as US ambassador to India, he will be the first ever Indian American to hold this position. Richard Rahul Verma is a former state department official.

Most recently, he served in the Obama Administration as the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs. In that capacity, he was Secretary of State Clinton’s principal advisor on congressional affairs and successfully led the department through a number of key budget and policyrelated battles. He played a lead role in securing the Senate’s ratification of the New START Treaty with Russia, guided nearly 200 Presidential nominees through the Senate confirmation process, and oversaw and managed the Administration’s response to several major congressional investigations.

He was also the lead U.S. Administration negotiator handling the development and passage of the most recent set of comprehensive sanctions against Iran. Earlier in his career, Mr. Verma served as Senior National Security Advisor to Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. He shaped many consequential legislative initiatives in the post- 9/11 era involving counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence reform matters. Mr. Verma has served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps.

His military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal. He also worked in the U.S. House of Representatives for the late Congressman John P. Murtha and served as a Country Director for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Eastern Europe. Mr. Verma is also a Senior Counselor at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, serves on the boards of the National Democratic Institute and Human Rights First, and is a Senior National Security Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

He has served on the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Critical Infrastructure Protection and the Law, and was appointed to the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. Mr. Verma holds degrees from the Georgetown University Law Center, American University’s Washington College of Law, and Lehigh University.

At present, Richard Verma serves as Senior Counselor to ASG and supports the firm’s global trade, regulatory, and policy capabilities. Mr. Verma draws on his most recent experience in the Obama Administration, and previously in the private sector, to help clients succeed in a range of legal and policy issues in foreign jurisdictions. He also advises on U.S. trade sanctions, export controls, and on responses to government investigations and crisis situations. He has a particular expertise in South Asia. It may be recalled that 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. 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. Welcoming the nomination of Richard (Rich) Verma, Congressman Crowley, who is Vice Chair of Democratic Caucus, issued the following statement. “With over two decades of senior foreign policy experience, Rich Verma is a skilled and accomplished professional who will make an excellent ambassador to India. From his time serving in the Air Force to high-ranking positions in government, Rich brings with him a wealth of experience.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Rich for many years and I deeply value his expertise and judgment. He is committed to building the U.S.-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 U.S.-India relations. I look forward to continuing to work with him.” A prominent New York attorney Ravi Batra lauded the nomination of Richard Verma as the next US ambassador to India. He said, in a statement sent to The Indian Panorama: “President Obama’s nomination of Richard Rahul Verma as our Ambassador to India is an act of historic joy, and proof that Indian-Americans are trusted to protect vital American interests abroad in an unconflicted manner.

To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, one small step for Ambassador Verma, and a giant leap for bilateral intimate ties between United States and India. It seems United States is paying a handsome royalty for the use of Indian Tea at the 1773 Boston Tea Party that started the American Revolution.”


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