The White House confirmed that U.S. President Barack Obama intends to nominate Richard Rahul Verma as its nominee for the post of Ambassador to India, according to an official statement issued here on Thursday afternoon.
If confirmed Mr. Verma will be the second Indian-American in a top State Department role directly responsible for Washington’s diplomatic engagement in India, alongside Nisha Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.
While the top U.S. diplomatic role in India is currently held by Kathleen Stephens, the Chargé d’Affaires at the New Delhi Embassy, it has been nearly six months since the previous U.S. Ambassador, Nancy Powell, left her post, and a new Indian administration has taken charge in New Delhi since then.
Records of the U.S. Senate on the number of nominations of the Obama White House still “undergoing committee consideration” in the Upper House do not inspire confidence that Mr. Verma might be confirmed as Ambassador anytime soon.
They indicate that there are 99 nominations that are awaiting confirmation or under consideration across federal government departments, and among them 40 appointments are from the State Department alone.
If the multiple stages of the confirmation process are considered, including the early nomination phase, confirmation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and also confirmation by the full Senate, reports suggest that as of early September there were at least 55 ambassadorial posts still lying vacant awaiting Congressional action.
Reflecting the concerns felt by those working in the bilateral economic space, a senior business executive said to The Hindu that extensive delay in appointing an ambassador to India could result in less opportunity to strengthen the India-U.S. relationship.
Underscoring uncertainty as to when Mr. Verma’s confirmation hearings would take place, the official cited the case of Mr. Obama’s nominee for Surgeon-General, Indian-American Vivek Murthy, who is yet to receive a floor vote in the Senate for his confirmation.
However, announcing the prospective nomination of Mr. Verma alongside several other senior appointments the President said, “I am grateful that these impressive individuals have chosen to dedicate their talents to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”
‘Rich’ Verma is currently the Senior Counselor at well-known law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP and the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global business advisory firm led by former U.S. Secretary of State in the Clinton administration Madeleine Albright.
Mr. Verma is also a Senior National Security Fellow at the Centre for American Progress, a major Washington think-tank that has close ties with the Obama administration. In prior roles he served as the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs at the State Department, from 2009 to 2011 and was a Senior National Security Advisor, Counsel and Foreign Policy Advisor to the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from 2002 to 2007.
The potential future Ambassador to India is also a former active duty veteran of the U.S. military, having served in the Air Force from 1994 to 1998 and received, among other decorations, the Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal, the White House noted.
Early on in his career Mr. Verma accumulated experience in diverse areas of international politics and diplomacy, alternatively serving as a Field Representative for the National Democratic Institute in Eastern Europe and on the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism in 2008.
In a sign of his close ties to the Democratic Party leadership in this country it was noted that Mr. Verma serves on the board of the Clinton Foundation.
He received a B.S. from Lehigh University, a J.D. from American University, and an L.L.M. from Georgetown University Law Centre, the White House added.