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A new U.S. ambassador to India

Richard Verma ’90, a national security expert who has served in the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Air Force and as an adviser to members of Congress, is the new U.S. ambassador to India.

Verma was nominated by President Barack Obama in September to be the top American diplomat in India, the world’s second most-populous nation and largest democracy. He was sworn in by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a ceremony Dec. 19 at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Verma for the position in a voice vote on Dec. 9.

Verma, 46, will take his post in the Indian capital of New Delhi in January, ahead of a planned state visit by Obama, who will be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations on Jan. 26.

According to The Economic Times of India and other news sources, Verma’s appointment and confirmation have received praise from lawmakers and policy analysts.

“As President Obama prepares to make his second trip to India next month, he is fortunate to have Rich at the helm of our embassy in New Delhi,” said Ronak D. Desai, an affiliate with the Belfer Center’s India and South Asia Program at Harvard University and an expert on U.S.-India relations.

“That Rich was confirmed by a voice vote by the U.S. Senate is a potent demonstration of the high esteem in which both he and the bilateral relationship are held by both parties in Washington,” Desai said.

“He will prove instrumental in navigating U.S. foreign relations with India to new, unexplored heights.”

U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat representing California’s seventh congressional district, said Verma's experience made him an excellent choice for his new post.

“I know Rich is committed to growing the partnership between India and the U.S. at this critical moment in our relationship and I look forward to working with him,” said Bera.

As assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs under Hillary Clinton from 2009-11, Verma led the Obama administration’s negotiations with Congress for new sanctions on Iran while working for passage of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia. He received the Distinguished Service Medal, the State Department’s highest civilian honor.

In 2007, he was named by the organization India Abroad as one of the 50 most influential Indian-Americans.

Verma attended Lehigh on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and earned a B.S. in industrial engineering, while minoring in international relations.

At Lehigh, Verma was a member of Lambda Chi fraternity and senior class president. Since graduating, he has served on the university’s board of trustees and on the board of directors of the Lehigh University Alumni Association.

Verma is the first Indian-American to serve as ambassador to India and the first assigned to a major country.

Story by Kurt Pfitzer

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Verma and Kerry pose with Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu

Following the swearing-in ceremony, Verma and Kerry pose with Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian embassy in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of U.S. State Department)