Washington: Top American lawmakers and eminent Indian-Americans have hailed President Barack Obama's decision to nominate Richard Rahul Verma as his next envoy to India, noting that he would make an excellent ambassador.
"With over two decades of senior foreign policy experience, Rich Verma is a skilled and accomplished professional who will make an excellent ambassador to India," Congressman Joe Crowley, Co-Chair of the Congressional India Caucus, said.
Obama yesterday announced his decision to nominate Verma as his next Ambassador to India.
If confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first Indian- American to head the US diplomatic mission in New Delhi.
He would replace Nancy Powell, who resigned from the position early this year.
Obama formally sent Verma's nomination to the United States Senate yesterday, where more than 50 ambassadorial nominees are pending for confirmation.
A former Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, Verma currently serves as Senior Counsellor at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Albright Stonebridge Group.
He is also a Senior National Security Fellow at the Centre for American Progress.
"He (Verma) is committed to building the US-India relationship, has access to the highest levels of the White House, and is exactly who we need at the helm as we look to further strengthen US-India relations," Crowley said soon after Obama's announcement.
At a critical time for growing India-US relations, 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.
"I know he understands the importance of strengthening the US-India partnership, and I look forward to working with him toward that goal as he takes on this new role," said Bera, who is the only Indian-American in the current Congress and only the third ever.
He was Senior National Security Adviser, Counsel and Foreign Policy Adviser to the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from 2002 to 2007, and an Associate at Steptoe & Johnson from 1998 to 2002.
Verma served on active duty in the US Air Force from 1994 to 1998 and received, among other decorations, the Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal.
Verma currently serves on the boards of Human Rights First, the Clinton Foundation, and the National Democratic Institute. He received a BS from Lehigh University, a JD from American University, and an LLM from Georgetown University Law Centre.
Noting that the relationship between the two countries is of critical importance, 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, the first ever Hindu lawmaker in the Congress.
Eminent Indian-American attorney Ravi Batra said Obama's nomination of Verma as US Ambassador to India is an act of historic joy, and proof that Indian-Americans are trusted to protect vital American interests abroad in an un-conflicted manner.
"To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, one small step for Ambassador Verma, and a giant leap for bilateral intimate ties between United States and India."
"It seems United States is paying a handsome royalty for the use of Indian Tea at the 1773 Boston Tea Party that started the American Revolution," Batra said. Verma's parents originally from Punjab moved to the US from 1960s. He served as a top foreign policy and national security adviser to Obama's re-election campaign in 2012 and served on his transition team in 2008.
Earlier in his career, Verma was a Field Representative for the National Democratic Institute in Eastern Europe and worked in the House of Representatives for Congressman John P Murtha.
He served on the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism in 2008 and has been a member of the Secretary of State's Foreign Affairs Policy Board.