By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 19 (IANS) A key aide of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rahul 'Richard' Verma, has become the second high-ranking Indian-American official in the Obama administration to return to the private sector.
As assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, Verma was Clinton's principal advisor on Congressional affairs for nearly two-and-a-half years and played a lead role in a wide range of critical international initiatives and legislative actions.
These included securing ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Talks treaty with Russia negotiating comprehensive sanctions against Iran and obtaining passage of the United Kingdom and Australian defence cooperation treaties.
At a farewell reception for Verma at the State Department, Clinton said: "Richard has just been our superb point person on the Hill. He hasn't just been an absolutely, exemplary deal-closer and problem-solver, he has been a counsellor and friend in the truest sense of the word."
In a personal letter of appreciation, President Barack Obama too extended "my sincere thanks for your valuable service to my administration."
"You played a key role in our efforts to ratify the New START treaty, to manage the response to the tragedy of the Haiti earthquake and to negotiate a powerful Iran sanctions bill," he wrote thanking him "for your contribution to the country."
Verma, who at the time of his confirmation was the highest- ranking Indian American to serve in the State Department, will return to the international law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP as a partner in its Washington office.
He will practice in the firm's international, national and homeland security, and government affairs and public policy groups.
Last year, Neera Tanden quit the administration after serving for a little over a year as senior advisor to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and after playing a key role in the formulation of Obama's health-care reform proposals.
Verma was first elected to Steptoe's partnership in 2007. The following year, while at Steptoe, he served on the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction as well as the Department of Defence Transition Team.
In March 2009, Obama nominated him for the State Department post and the Senate unanimously confirmed him shortly thereafter.