The relationship between India and the U.S. is the “defining partnership” for the 21st century, America’s former Ambassador to the country Richard Verma has told lawmakers and urged the Senate to confirm the next envoy to New Delhi at the earliest.
A strong advocate of deepening Indo-U.S. ties, Mr. Verma played a key role in the Congressional passage of the civil nuclear deal. He was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to India in 2014, becoming the first ever Indian-American to hold the post. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to India from 2014 to 2017.
“I continue to believe this is the “defining partnership” for this century. The relationship is so consequential in so many ways, and having a senior official on the ground that represents the President makes a big difference,” Mr. Verma told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing for Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources.
Mr. Verma was responding to a confirmation of the next U.S. Ambassador to India, a post that has been laying vacant for more than two years now.
“I think everyone hopefully appreciates the urgency with the need to put someone there as soon as possible. It’s also, I would say, a morale issue for the team. But more importantly, just delivering on the President’s priorities,” Mr. Verma said.
Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Chris van Hollen underscored the importance for the Senate to confirm an Ambassador right away to represent the U.S. in New Delhi.
In July last year, U.S. President Joe Biden nominated Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as his Ambassador to India. But because of the allegation of sexual assault by one of his senior staffers, the Democrats have been unable to muster enough support in the Senate.
Responding to a question on the current visa waiting period at the American diplomatic missions in India, Mr. Verma noted that this is “too long.” India was one of the very few countries where applications for U.S. visas saw a major upswing after coronavirus-related travel restrictions were lifted.
There have been growing concerns in India over the long waiting period for first time visa applicants, especially for those applying under B1 (business) and B2 (tourist) categories. The waiting period of first time B1/B2 visa applicants in India was close to three years in October last year.