Off-the-Record with Ambassador Richard Verma on the Current State of U.S. – India Relations

On February 13th – Partnership for a Secure America held an off-the-record dinner featuring the former U.S. Ambassador to India. PSA Board member and  Associate at the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute at Harvard University Ronak Desai moderated the discussion. The dinner discussion emphasized the value of the U.S. India relationship and how it has changed following the elections of President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Modi of India. The panelists discussed ways to promote mutual security, prosperity and reduce the possibility of geopolitical & security risks for the U.S. and India. Around 70 of our esteemed CPP alumni attended the event.

This was a closed event for alumni of the Congressional Partnership Program.

This event was made possible by the generous support of Intel, Venable LLP, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.


Ambassador Richard Verma

Ambassador Richard Verma

Vice Chair & Partner

Ambassador Richard Verma is Vice Chair and Partner at The Asia Group, where he leads the firm’s growth in South Asia. He previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to India from 2014 to 2017, where he is credited for the historic deepening of bilateral ties. A leading expert on trade and diplomacy in Asia, Ambassador Verma brings 25 years of experience across senior levels of business, law, diplomacy, and the military.

Nominated as U.S. Ambassador to India by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the Senate, Ambassador Verma oversaw one of the largest U.S. diplomatic missions in the world, including four consulates with staff from nearly every agency in the U.S. Government. During his tenure, he championed historic progress in U.S.-India relations, with critical evolutions to bilateral cooperation in defense, trade, and clean energy. The Ambassador also oversaw several meetings between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi – leading to over 100 new initiatives and more than 40 government-to-government dialogues.

Ambassador Verma was previously the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, where he led the State Department’s efforts on Capitol Hill. He served for many years as the Senior National Security Advisor to the Senate Majority Leader and also worked in the House of Representatives. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he served on active duty as a Judge Advocate. His military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal.

The Ambassador also brings to bear a distinguished career in the private sector. He was a partner in a major global law firm for many years, and also served as a member of the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism Commission led by former Senators Graham and Talent. He is a co-author of their landmark report, “World at Risk.”

In addition to his role at The Asia Group, Ambassador Verma is a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The Ambassador also co-chairs the Center for American Progress’ U.S.-India Task Force, which has charted an actionable bilateral agenda to deepen U.S.-India ties. He also serves on a number of boards and commissions, including the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum, Malaria No More, Lehigh University, the MGM Public Policy Institute, Paladin Capital Strategic Advisory Group, and the T. Rowe Price corporate board.

Ambassador Verma is the recipient of the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award, the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship, and the Chief Justice John Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was ranked by India Abroad as one of the 50 most influential Indian Americans. Ambassador Verma holds degrees from the Georgetown University Law Center (LLM), American University’s Washington College of Law (JD), and Lehigh University (BS).

Ronak Desai

Ronak Desai

PSA Board Member

Ronak D. Desai is Vice Chair of the India practice at a prominent international law firm based in Washington D.C.  A recognized scholar and practitioner in the fields of law and foreign policy, his work focuses on U.S.-India relations, diaspora politics, anti-corruption, and global governance.

Ronak advises clients on a broad range of complex investigative, regulatory, litigation, compliance, and public policy matters.  He has extensive legal and policy experience in the public and private sectors.  From 2014-2016, he served as the Democratic Counsel to the Select Committee on Benghazi in the United States Congress.  His previous Capitol Hill experience also includes his time on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.

In 2006, Ronak was part of efforts to help secure Congressional approval for the landmark U.S.-India civilian nuclear deal, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush that same year.  He routinely advises Members of Congress on legal and foreign policy issues, particularly pertaining to South Asia.

Ronak is a Law & Security Fellow at New America, a Fellow at the Truman National Security Project, and an Asia 21 Leader at the Asia Society.  He serves as General Counsel and Board Director to the Partnership for a Secure America, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank.

In 2016, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed Ronak to her Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.  He also teaches a popular course on U.S. foreign policy toward South Asia at the Johns Hopkins University.  He is a regular contributor to a host of leading publications in both the United States and the Asia Pacific, including Forbes.  From 2013-2017, Ronak was an Affiliate at the Belfer Center’s India and South Asia Program at Harvard University.

Ronak earned his undergraduate degree from the Johns Hopkins University, and joint public policy and law degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School, from which he graduated magna cum laude.