- The Indian American, who previously served at the U.S. Embassy New Delhi and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, replaces Daniel Smith who announced his retirement.
Ambassador Atul Keshap, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, has been appointed as the new chargé d’affaires in India. He will replace Ambassador Daniel Smith who announced his retirement. Smith was appointed by President Joe Biden as the U.S. Charge d’Affaires to India. Ken Juster was the last U.S. ambassador to the country.
Announcing the appointment, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Keshap’s appointment “will reinforce the close U.S. partnership with the Government and people of India, demonstrated by our collaboration to overcome global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.” In a State Department press release he said “Keshap will bring a wealth of experience to the role.”
Keshap, who is on his way to India tweeted: “Before departure for #India, I went home to #Charlottesville to seek my Mother’s blessings. She served in the #ForeignService at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi 1958-1960.”
India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Transit Singh Sandhu took to Twitter to congratulate Keshap. “Delighted to meet @USAmbKeshap at India House, who is going as Cd’A to @USAndIndia,” he wrote. “Wishing you a very happy birthday, my friend, and also a wonderful tenure ahead!”
Keshap most recently served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. From 2013 to 2015, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, working closely with Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal to coordinate U.S. Government policy toward India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, and Bhutan. Before that he served as the United States Senior Official for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a trade body whose members generate 55 percent of global GDP. He was responsible for U.S. policy initiatives during the Russia and Indonesia host years and served concurrently as Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell’s Coordinator for Economic Policy in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
From 2010 to 2012, he worked with Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake as Director of the Office of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Bhutan Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, managing U.S. foreign policy toward a strategically important region that comprises a fifth of the world’s population.
His other postings include director of the Office of Human Rights, Humanitarian, and Social Affairs in the Bureau of International Organizations of the State Department; Deputy Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India; director for North African and Middle Eastern Regional Affairs on the National Security Council staff in the Executive Office of the President; Special Assistant for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia from 2002-2003 for the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Operations Officer on the executive staff of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; and political/economic officer at U.S. Embassies in Rabat, Morocco and Conakry, Guinea.
He is the recipient of several Department of State individual Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards, as well as a certificate of recognition from Secretary of State Colin Powell for duties performed in the State Department Operations Center on September 11, 2001, and afterward.
Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, Keshap has also lived in Nigeria, Lesotho, Afghanistan, Zambia, and Austria. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. While there, he concentrated on Economics, International Relations, Diplomacy, and Religious Studies, as well as French.
He is married to Karen Young Keshap, who is also a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. They have three daughters and a son.
President Biden still has the task of naming a permanent U.S. ambassador to India. There’s been speculation that one of the favorites for the post is Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, an early supporter of President Joe Biden, who served as a co-chair of his campaign committee. Among other names for the high-profile post is former Congressman Joe Crowley, who was unexpectedly defeated in 2018 by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star.
Garcetti mulled running for president himself. In December announced that he had turned down an unspecified job with the Biden administration. “As the administration reached out to me about serving, I let them know early this week that my city needs me now, and then I want to be here and that I need to be here,” he said during a news conference at the time.
Garcetti’s possible nomination to a Biden administration post last year sparked daily protests outside his home by members of Black Lives Matter and others. News reports also indicated at the time that another reason Garcetti’s Cabinet prospects faded was because of a sexual harassment lawsuit against one of his former aides, Rick Jacobs, brought by a longtime bodyguard, Matthew Garza. The L.A. Times reported that the allegations received more attention after journalist Yashar Ali reported last year about his own experience of being repeatedly forcibly kissed by Jacobs when he was working in California politics. Ali also reported that Garcetti was aware of other potential misconduct by Jacobs.
(Top photo, Atul Keshap with Secretary of State Antony Blinken)