Nirupama Rao, India’s Ambassador to the U.S., marked the end of her tenure here as well as a forty-year career in diplomacy, at a function at the embassy residence attended by a galaxy of diplomats and well-wishers.
Speaking at the event, Ms. Rao, who also held the highest office in India’s Ministry of External Affairs – the Foreign Secretary post – between 2009 and 2011, said that recent years had witnessed remarkable progress in the India-U.S. bilateral relationship.
She particularly underscored the efficacy of the bilateral Strategic Dialogue which began during her tenure as Foreign Secretary, and continues to serve as a principal mechanism for driving forward cooperation in areas such as regional initiatives, security cooperation, partnership in commerce, science and technology, education, and energy and environmental policy.
Ms. Rao was India’s first woman Ambassador to China, from 2006 to 2009, and her other ambassadorial assignments included Peru and Bolivia, and Sri Lanka.
As India’s U.S. Ambassador, she frequently travelled the breadth of the nation to connect with Americans and deepen people’s understanding of India. She also maintained strong personal relationships with members of the U.S. Congress, many of whom were in attendance at the residence.
Ms. Rao was also a strong advocate of India’s views on numerous contentious issues in foreign policy, most recently including India’s position on patent law.
In the face of strident voices criticising the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to deny pharmaceutical giant Novartis a patent for its cancer drug Glivec earlier this year, Ms. Rao wrote an op-ed in The Hill’s Congress blog where she firmly argued that “India honours, not dishonours, patent laws.” In the article she emphasised that India sought to “ensure a fair balance between the interests of innovators and the urgent need for improved health care.”
Accompanied by her husband and former Chief Secretary of Karnataka, Sudhakar Rao and her two sons, Ms. Rao reflected on some of the high points of her time in Washington, most recently her efforts along with U.S. State Department’s Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy to secure a premises for the planned India Cultural Centre in the heart of the city.
Mr. Kennedy and John Holdren, the White House Director of Science and Technology Policy, praised Ms. Rao’s efforts over the years that helped keep up the tempo of progress in bilateral cooperation.
Among the other attendees were Maryland Deputy Secretary of State Rajan Natarajan, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal and Ms. Biswal's predecessor Robert Blake.
Ms. Rao will be succeeded in her role as U.S. Ambassador by S. Jaishankar, who has been the country's senior-most envoy to China since 2009.