Ashley Tellis could be Trump’s pick to replace Rich Verma as US envoy to India

Mumbai-born strategic expert Ashley J Tellis, who served at the United States embassy in New Delhi and the White House, could be President-elect Donald Trump transition team’s pick for ambassador to India, a media report said on Monday.

Trump is “close to selecting” Tellis to be the next envoy to India, transition sources were quoted as saying by The Washington Post.

The report described the move as part of behind the scenes efforts by the Trump transition team for “its own pivot to Asia”. The pivot towards Asia was a concept framed by the Obama administration.

“As the team that will implement that policy takes shape, what’s emerging is an approach that harkens back to past Republican administrations – but also seeks to actualise the Obama administration’s ambition of enhancing the US presence in the region,” the report said.

Tellis, currently a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace specialising in international security and Asian strategic issues, was closely involved in negotiating the landmark civil nuclear agreement between the US and India.
After being commissioned into the US foreign service, he served as senior adviser to the US ambassador in New Delhi during 2001-2003. He also served on the US national security council staff as special assistant to president George W Bush and senior director for strategic planning and Southwest Asia.

He has authored books on India’s nuclear programme and Asian security issues such as India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture (2001) and Interpreting China’s Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future (2000).

The report about Tellis being Trump’s pick for the ambassadorial position in India came as the incumbent, Rich Verma, tweeted after a meeting with actor Amitabh Bachchan that he would depart on January 20, the inauguration day for the next US president.

“Tonight I told@SrBachchan I will depart as US Ambassador to India on January 20; it has been a great honour to serve India”, he tweeted late Sunday night.

Under a blanket order, the Trump transition team asked all politically appointed ambassadors installed by President Barack Obama to step down by January 20.

Verma, 48, took charge as the US ambassador to India on January 2015. He is the 25th US envoy to India. He had earlier served as an assistant secretary of state for legal affairs.

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