U.S. Ambassador to India: Who Is Richard Verma?
On September 18, 2014, President Barack Obama nominated Rahul “Richard” Verma, a former State Department official, to be the U.S. ambassador to India. If confirmed, it would be the first ambassadorial post for Verma and he would be the first Indian-American in the post.
Verma was born November 27, 1968, in Edmonton, Canada, where his father was studying. His parents are from the Punjab region of India and his mother was originally from what is now Pakistan, moving after the former British colony of India was partitioned in 1947. The family moved to Johnstown, Pennsylvania when Verma was two. His father went on to become a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown and his mother was a special needs teacher.
Verma graduated from Westmont Hilltop High School in 1986 and went to Lehigh University on an Air Force ROTC scholarship. He also worked as an intern for then-Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) while in college. Verma graduated from Lehigh with a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1990 and then went to law school at American University, earning a J.D. in 1993.
Following that, Verma served as a country director for the National Democratic Institute in Romania for a year and then went on active duty with the Air Force. He served in the Judge Advocate General Corps from 1994 to 1998 and earned an LL.M from Georgetown during this period.
After his discharge from the service, Verma went to work for the Washington law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, beginning an association that continues to this day. Verma left Steptoe in 2002 to work on the staff of Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada), serving as Reid’s foreign policy advisor and senior national security advisor.
He returned to Steptoe as a partner in 2007. In 2008, Verma was named a member of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. Later that year, he joined Obama’s Department of Defense transition team.
Verma was appointed assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs under Hillary Clinton in 2009. His appointment appeared to violate Obama’s self-imposed ban on putting former lobbyists in the government as Verma had lobbied the State Department on behalf of the U.S.-India Business Council. Nonetheless, he was confirmed in the post and subsequently led negotiations with Congress on Iran sanctions and the New START treaty.
Verma returned to Steptoe once again in 2011 as partner and senior counselor and joined the Center for American Progress that year as a senior national security fellow. In 2013, while remaining at Steptoe, Verma also worked for the global strategy firm Albright Stonebridge Group as a senior counselor.
Verma was nominated to the New Delhi post when Nancy Powell retired in the wake of the arrest of an Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, in New York. The Indian government reportedly preferred that an Indian-American not be named to the job, but Verma was nominated anyway.
Verma is married; his wife Pinky is also an attorney. They have three children: Zoe and twins Lucy and Dylan.
To Learn More:
Obama Names Richard Verma as New U.S. Envoy to India (by Aziz Haniffa, Rediff)
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