Washington, Dec 10:
The US Senate has confirmed Richard Rahul Verma, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next American ambassador to India, making him the first Indian-American envoy in New Delhi.
Verma, 46, a former key aide to then secretary of state Hillary Clinton, was approved by the Senate by a unanimous voice vote Tuesday, signifying the bipartisan support for better India-US relations.
He is expected to take up his position in New Delhi before Obama’s visit to India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day, the first US president to get the honour.
At his confirmation hearing last week, Verma told the Senate Foreign Relations committee that Obama’s “historic visit to India in January” will build on “Modi’s highly successful visit to the United States this past September.”
“There is no question that this is a defining and exciting time in the US-India relationship,” he said.
“There’s little doubt the relationship has been reenergized, with renewed enthusiasm to take our partnership to the next level.”
Verma, whose parents immigrated from India in the sixties also acknowledged the contribution of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and vowed to “strive to live up to the high standards they have set.”
They “took a chance like my parents, who worked hard, who continue to pursue their dreams, and along the way have helped ensure India and the United States become the closest of friends and partners,” he told the panel.
Currently Verma is a senior counsellor at Steptoe & Johnson law firm and the Albright Stonebridge Group, a business advisory company, led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
He served as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs at the State Department in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2011.
The New Delhi post has been vacant since the previous ambassador Nancy Powell quit in May after India-US ties hit a low after a major diplomatic spat over the December arrest and strip search of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York.
Kathleen Stephens, a career foreign service official has served as chargé d’affaires in New Delhi since July.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])