Indian-American Atul Keshap has been confirmed as the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives, becoming the second Indian-origin diplomat to be posted to the region after Richard Rahul Verma, The Hindu newspaper reported.
Keshap (44), a former official at the US Embassy in India, was on Wednesday confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the country’s envoy which would be his first Ambassadorial posting.
He is currently working as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in South and Central Asian Affairs Bureau of State Department. He joined the Foreign Service in 1994.
Keshap and Verma, the U.S. envoy to India, both trace their origin to Punjab. He was the deputy political counsellor at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi from 2005 to 2008.
Keshap also served as special assistant for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia for the under secretary of state for political affairs.
In 2003, he moved to the White House as director for North African and Middle Eastern regional affairs on the staff of the National Security Council. He was also the director for UN Human Rights in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs from 2008 to 2010.
His father, Keshap Chander Sen, who was from Punjab, was a U.N. development economist working in Nigeria where Keshap was born in June, 1971. His mother, Zoe Calvert, had been in the U.S. Foreign Service when she met and married Mr. Sen in London. She had also served at the U.S. embassy in India.
“My parents’ service and my upbringing instilled in me a firm dedication and commitment to American values, and led me to a career in the Foreign Service,” Keshap said in his confirmation hearing on June 23.
He had said since January, Sri Lanka has made progress on challenging issues, from fighting corruption and media censorship, to beginning the long process of healing after decades of war.
“We want to help the Sri Lankan people strengthen democracy, civil society and human rights, including media freedom and freedom of religion,” he said.
“We want to help build a lasting peace and fellowship among Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious communities, including credible justice, accountability and reconciliation that can facilitate closure for those who suffered and lost loved ones during the war,” Keshap added.
He said that Maldives faces challenges with youth unemployment, rising extremism, and social unrest.
“We want a better relationship with Maldives, so that we can deepen cooperation. And we want to help it return to the democratic path on which it courageously embarked a few years ago, and look forward to strengthening our relationship when that happens,” Keshap added.