The confirmation hearing of Richard Rahul Verma as the US Ambassador to India has been scheduled for December 2 by a key Senate committee.
Verma, 45, if confirmed, would be the first ever Indian-American to be the top US diplomat in New Delhi. He would replace Nancy Powell, who resigned from her position early this year. Kathleen Stephens is the current chief-de-mission in India.
The scheduling of Verma’s confirmation hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) immediately after the Thanksgiving holidays is seen as an effort to accelerate the process of his confirmation so that the new US Ambassador is in place before January 26 visit of President Barack Obama to India.
Obama has been invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the chief guest of the annual Republic Day function. This would be the first time that a US President would be attending the Republic Day celebrations. He would also be the first ever US President to visit India twice.
Administration officials and Senate leadership hope that Verma would be confirmed by the Senate before what is now being billed as a historic visit.
Currently there are more than 55 Ambassadorial nominations pending in the US Senate, mainly because of obstructions from the Republicans.
Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry had urged the Senate leadership to confirm the ambassadorial nominations, which he argued is having an impact on American diplomacy globally.
According to Congressional sources, Verma is highly popular among both the Democrats and Republicans.
He worked as a senior adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from 2002 to 2007 and played a key role - behind the scene—in the passage of the India-US Civilian Nuclear Deal.
“Rich is the only Indian American among other political Appointees who really cares and understands the real need for a much better US-India relations,” eminent Indian-American Swadesh Chatterjee said.
“We could not have concluded the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement without the contribution of Rich. He had the commitment to the cause. He never forgot his roots,” he said.