Kerry wishes Nirupama Rao farewell at State Dept. reception

End of an illustrious 40 year career with the diplomatic corps.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Outgoing Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao was honored at a function held by the US Department of State, on Monday.

Rao, who has been in her current position since August 2011, was honored for the work she accomplished throughout her career in diplomacy. Rao’s diplomatic career has lasted 40 years, and is coming to an end with her retirement now that she is vacating her ambassadorial post.

“I leave with a great sense of optimism and hope,” said Rao, “and [the] satisfaction that I have been able not only to learn so much but also to help build partnerships and forge relationships between India and a number of countries around the world.”

In attendance at the farewell event were several high-profile community and political dignitaries, including Secretary of State John Kerry, who thanked Rao for her years of dedicated service, her indispensable role in strengthening US-India bilateral relations, and wished her all the best in the years to come. Rao tweeted later that she was immensely touched by Kerry’s words.

Rao’s career in diplomacy began in 1973, when she joined the Indian Foreign Service. She served in the Indian Embassy in Vienna, Austria during the mid-1970s, and subsequently served as First Secretary in the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka during the early 1980s. Her first term as an ambassador was to Peru, from 1995 to 1998.

She became the spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs in 2001 — the first woman to ever hold the position — and became India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka in 2004. She became Ambassador to China in 2006, and India’s Foreign Secretary in 2009. She held that position until she became Ambassador to the US.

Her term as Ambassador to the US will likely be remembered for her work in strengthening business ties between the US and India. Despite recent setbacks between the two countries, Rao has urged that communication between the two governments remain open so that diplomacy can work and ties remain friendly and productive.

Earlier this year, when Indian pharmaceutical companies were coming under attack by the US government for failing to meet basic standards, Rao wrote an op-ed for The Hill defending Indian companies and urging the US not to turn away from India.

Rao’s successor as Ambassador to the US will be Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. A critical player in getting the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement pushed through, Jaishankar is currently the Indian Ambassador to China.

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