He has been called the ‘Most Influential Indian American Congressional aide’ during his stint as Senior National Security Adviser to US Senate Majoirty leader Harry Reid. If things go according to plan, he could soon be called the ’most influential Indian-American in India’.
That’s Rahul ’Richard’ Verma, who US President Barack Obama nominated Thursday as that country’s next ambassador to India, pending Senate approval.
The appointment is an important one – India has not had a full-time US Ambassador to India since May when Nancy Powell left New Delhi after resigning in March.
Verma’s appointment can also been seen as a salve of sorts, after Powell’s tumultuous tenure that included the Devyani Khobragade incident, which prompted swift retaliatory measures by the Indian government against the Embassy and the American School in New Delhi. The prolonged vacancy had also raised questions about the US’ commitment to an Indo-US relationship that has been hailed as one of strategic importance to both nations.
It also comes just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for the US on his first official visit later this month. This will be Modi’s first US trip since his visa was last revoked in 2005 when he was chief minister of Gujarat for his alleged role in the 2002 communal riots in the state under his watch.
But who is Richard Verma? Here are 10 things you must know about the next US Ambassador to India
1) At one point of time, he was one of the highest ranked Indian Americans in the US Congress, serving as National Security and Foreign Policy Adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who he also advised on the India-US Civilian Nuclear Energy deal, and ultimately convinced to back.
2) In that role, he acted as senior defense and foreign policy liaison to Senate committees, the office of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives and the White House. He was also the key liaison for communications and political advice to the Reid, various Committee chairmen and the Democratic Caucus
3) During his tenure as National Security Adviser to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, Rahul ‘Richard’ Verma was one of a handful of people who had Top Secret/Secure Compartmentalized Information security clearance, according to reports.
4) In March 2009, US President Barack Obama hand-picked Verma to be Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, making him the highest ranking Indian American in the administration. In that role, he served as the principal Congressional affairs advisor to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He stayed in that role until 2013.
5) He has served with distinction in the US Air Force, and has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (1998), Air Force Commendation Medal (1996) and the National Defense Service Medal (1994).
6) He went to a private college on a scholarship form the US Air Force. He graduated with honours in Science in 1990 from Lehigh University in Bethelem, Pennsylvania. He later graduated cum laude in 1993 from the American University Law School, and later the Georgetown University Law Center, where he received his LLM with distinction in 1998.
7) In May 2008, Verma was appointed to the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism in the last few months of the Bush administration. The Commission implements a key recommendation of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission and builds on the Congressional commitment to address the threat that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction poses to the US.
8) Later, President-elect Obama’s transition team asked him to stay on the Commission while he served on the Pentagon Agency Review Team overseeing the US Department of Defense, to which he was appointed as one of the leads.
9) He was awarded the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award in 2013.
10) In June 2007, he was named as one of the 50 Most Influential Indian Americans in the United States by a leading community newspaper.