Speaking in Asia earlier this year, President Obama explained that when conducting foreign policy, sometimes "you hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run."
The president sent one out of the park recently by nominating foreign policy heavyweight Richard Rahul Verma to serve as U.S. Ambassador to India. The position had been vacant for more than six months following the retirement of Nancy Powell from the post earlier this year. If confirmed by the Senate, Verma would become the first Indian-American to serve as Washington's envoy to New Delhi. His background, experience, and expertise render him the ideal candidate to help further strengthen ties between the world's oldest and largest democracies.
Currently a Senior Counselor at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP and the Albright Stonebridge Group, Verma is a well-known, highly regarded figure in the American foreign policy and national security establishments. His career shaping U.S. foreign relations spans more than two decades.
Verma most recently served as Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs at the State Department from 2009 to 2011 for Secretary Hillary Clinton. Prior to that, he was National Security Advisor, Counsel, and Foreign Policy Advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). He worked as an aide to the late Congressman Jack Murtha and as a country director for the National Democratic Institute in Eastern Europe. From 1994-1998, Verma served as an active duty officer in the U.S. Air Force in the Judge Advocate General Corps where he earned the Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal, among other decorations. He was previously a member of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. He is currently a member of the U.S.-India Aspen Strategy Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Secretary of State's prestigious Foreign Affairs Policy Board. He serves on the boards of the National Democratic Institute and Human Rights First, and is a Senior National Security Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Verma received a B.S. from Lehigh University, a J.D. from American University, and an L.L.M. from Georgetown University Law Center.
Unsurprisingly, Verma's nomination is garnering widespread praise. Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), Co-Chair of the House Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, described Verma as "exactly who we need at the helm as we look further to strengthen US-India relations." Chairman of the influential US-India Business Council, and CEO of MasterCard, Ajay Banga, observed "Mr. Verma's distinguished record in business, international trade, and public service makes him uniquely well qualified to represent American interests at this pivotal time." Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright hailed Verma as "instrumental to shaping American foreign policy in the course of his career."
Verma's nomination comes at a particularly important moment in U.S.-India relations. The landmark election of a new Indian government this past May led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely regarded as an important opportunity to refocus ties between Washington and New Delhi. Although a broad consensus exists that a deeper U.S.-India strategic partnership is critical to regional and international security, greater global prosperity, and the promotion of democratic values worldwide, challenges persist. The arrest of an Indian consular official in New York last year, for example, ignited the worst diplomatic crisis between the two countries in more than a decade. Disputes over global trade, intellectual property rights, and climate change, among others, continue to vex the bilateral relationship. Managing these irritants effectively, while still achieving the mutual interests upon which the U.S.-India strategic partnership is based, will be the key challenge confronting the new American ambassador to India.
Fortunately, Verma is more than up to the task. His long track-record of foreign policy, national security, business, and trade experience both inside and outside the government make him well-equipped to advance American interests in India and bolster the U.S.-India strategic partnership. He possesses the skills, temperament, and vision necessary to conduct the kind of diplomacy required to achieve the full promise of U.S.-India relations.
President Obama has hit a home run by nominating Richard Verma to serve as U.S. ambassador to India. Verma will prove an effective champion and able custodian of the U.S.-India relationship given the profound depth and breadth of his experience.
The Senate should confirm him without delay.