Meet Indian-American Richard Verma, US ambassador to India

Yesterday President Barack Obama nominated former State Department official and Indian-American citizen Richard Rahul Verma as the US ambassador to India.

Richard Verma will be replacing Nancy Powell, the former US envoy to India who resigned in March thanks to the India-US diplomatic row over the mistreatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade by the New York police on charges of visa fraud and underpaying a domestic worker.

Verma's appointment comes just ahead of PM Narendra Modi's visit to the United States, which comes after a 2005 visa denial to Modi over the Gujarat riots violence.

So exactly who is Richard Verma? His parents are originally from Punjab and his mother had come to the Indian side after the partition. During a speech last year, Verma at a conference by the South Asia Journal Verma had spoken about the influence his family had on him.

He had said in the speech,

"My mother was born in what is today Pakistan…she was a product of the partition…as her and her family would resettle in Northern India shortly after 1947. It was a violent and unsettled time. My father was the only literate person in his family. He would be imprisoned as a teenager for protesting British occupation. My mother, this young girl from a village in Pakistan, would go on to get her master’s degree. And my dad would get his PhD, and become the first person in his family who could read and write."

He also spoke about how his father came to the United State in 1963 with only 24 dollars and that his mother and other siblings joined came to the US later on. He recounted the hard times saying, ""The times were hard. We had no money. The kids could be mean in school to this new immigrant family. But they persevered."

Verma was raised in Western Pennsylvania and is the youngest of five kids.

But he is no novice when it comes to working for the Obama government and his relationship with Obama go as far back as 2008. According to a Reuters report, he helped Obama in the 2008 elections on on presidential debate preparations.

He was then an assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs at the State Department in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2011. Currently he is senior counselor at Steptoe and Johnson law firm and the Albright Stonebridge Group.

According to his profile on Steptoe and Johnson, "Verma has more than two decades of international and senior-level US government experience. He is a leading practitioner in the fields of national security law, international regulatory compliance and public policy."

 Meet Indian-American Richard Verma, US ambassador to India

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke (L) consults with Richard Verma, Department of State Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Legislative Affairs in this 2010 photo. AFP

During his earlier role in the government, Verma was the principal advisor to Secretary Clinton, and also the Administration’s lead negotiator with Congress on Iran sanctions and the ratification of the New START Treaty, adds the profile.

The profile adds that Verma began his career in the US Air Force where he served an officer in the US Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps and won two military honours for his work which were the Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal.

As far as Verma's connections with the Obama administration go, the Reuters report adds that he has a close working relationship with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and senior adviser John Podesta.

Once his nomination is confirmed, Richard Verma will the first Indian-American to hold the post of ambassador.

The Indian ambassador-to-be also has experience of working in the US Legislature as he was also Senior National Security Adviser, Counsel and Foreign Policy Adviser to the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from 2002 to 2007.

While appointment is yet to be confirmed, Verma seems to be getting a lot of praise from the US Congress members. According to a PTI report  Congressman Ami Bera said Verma is an experienced professional who will make "an outstanding ambassador" at such an important moment.

"He has many years of foreign policy experience as a high ranking official with the US Department of State, as an adviser in both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives, and during his years in the US Air Force," he said.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said the US needs an Ambassador who understands India, and who can grow the friendship and advance their shared interests. "I'd like to congratulate Mr Verma on his nomination to fill this role and represent our nation to the people of India. His vast experience in public service will serve him well. I wish him the best as he moves forward through the confirmation process, and encourage the Senate to move forward quickly to send him to India as our US Ambassador," said Gabbard, who is the first ever Hindu lawmaker in the Congress.

With agency inputs 



Updated Date: Sep 19, 2014 15:14:20 IST