Obama Nominates IndianAmerican as Ambassador to India Following Recent Controversy

As IndianAmericans continue to gain prominence in the business sector, it is increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that they are still woefully underrepresented in the governmental sphere. While there are currently nine IndianAmerican CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that level of visibility is lacking for IndianAmericans in high-ranking U.S. administrative positions. [See The Rise of Indian-Americans in U.S. Business, by Palesh Gosh, International Business Times, 10.Mar.2014.] But, that may change this fall. On September 19, 2014, President Barack Obama nominated a former State Department official, Richard Verma, to become the next U.S. ambassador to India. Verma, an IndianAmerican whose parents immigrated to the U.S. prior to his birth in the late 1960s, previously served in the Obama administration as Assistant Secretary of State of Legislative Affairs from 2009-2011. If Verma’s appointment is confirmed by the Senate in November, then he will make history as the first IndianAmerican to serve as a U.S. ambassador to India. [See Obama Nominates Indian-American as Ambassador to India, by David Brunnstrom and Jeff Mason, Reuters, 19.Sep.2014.]

This announcement comes while relations between the United States and India are strained following a highly publicized incident last year, in which a junior Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested and strip-searched in New York after accusations of visa fraud and making false statements about how much she paid a domestic employee. As a result, Khobragade was forced to leave the U.S. after refusing to waive her diplomatic immunity. Her arrest was condemned by many in the Indian government as unwarranted and barbaric, and former U.S. Ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, resigned amidst the controversy. [See Indian Diplomat Charged with Visa Fraud, Forced to Leave U.S., by Tom Winter, Catherine Chomiak, and Tracy Connor, NBC News, 10.Jan.2014.]

The tension between the United States and India is particularly ill timed, as the U.S. has turned to India in recent years as a political ally on a myriad of issues, and also as a counterbalance to an increasingly formidable China. So it may appear at first glance, then, that Obama’s nomination of Verma as the first IndianAmerican ambassador to India is merely a calculated gesture to repair a strategic relationship with a nation still wary of the United States. However, Verma is more than qualified for the position, independent of any controversy. Verma, whose parents immigrated to America in the 1960’s having experienced firsthand India’s fight for independence from Britain and the ensuing Partition, has been an associate of Obama’s since 2008. Following his work at the U.S. State Department, he went on to become a top partner at a world-renowned law firm specializing in national security law and international regulatory compliance. [See Meet Richard Verma, the Indo-American U.S. Ambassador to India, by FirstPost Staff, FirstPost World, 19.Sept.2014.]

Verma’s nomination came just a week before a visit to Washington by newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Moodi. If his appointment by Obama is confirmed in November, then we have every reason to hope that these two new faces of U.S.-India relations will be able to leave contention behind and forge a positive future for both countries.

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