Indian-origin Richard Verma nominated new US envoy to India

Richard VermaUS President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated Indian-origin former State Department official Richard Verma, as the country's ambassador to New Delhi, just ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington.

Verma served as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs at the State Department in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2011. He is currently a senior counsellor at the law firm Steptoe & Johnson as well as the Albright Stonebridge Group, a business advisory company led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Officials said Verma has close relationships with Obama's White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and senior adviser John Podesta

He will be the first Indian-American to do be appointed to the country of his origin.

If he is confirmed by Congress, Verma will replace Nancy Powell, who resigned in March after a damaging row over the treatment of a junior Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, who was accused by authorities in New York of visa fraud and underpaying a domestic worker.

The US Embassy in New Delhi is currently headed by a charge d' Affairs, Kathleen Stephens.

Modi is due to visit Washington 29-30 September.

Verma's association with Obama goes back to 2008, when he worked on presidential debate preparations for the then-Illinois senator. Verma's parents came to the US in the early 1960s having lived through India's fight for independence from Britain and partition, White House officials said.

Kamal Verma, taught at the University of Pittsburgh for 40 years, while his mother, who was a special needs school teacher, passed away last year.

With US lawmakers about to spend the next six weeks campaigning for the 4 November congressional elections, Verma will not be confirmed by the Senate before mid-November.

The Obama administration has been fighting with the Senate all year to get its nominees confirmed quickly. There are currently dozens of nominees for ambassadorships awaiting confirmation by the US Senate.