President Obama appoints Hindi speaking Ambassador to India

President Obama appoints Hindi speaking Ambassador to India

Former Congressman Dr. Tim Roemer is returning to the USA from his two years as the US Ambassador to India. Replacing him in New Delhi will be Los Angeles native and bow-tie wearing Dr. A. Peter Burleigh.  A distinguished career U.S. Foreign Service officer who served as Ambassador and Deputy Representative of the United States to the United Nations before he retired after 33 years of service in August 2000, Burleigh needs to be approved by the Senate.  Prior to his U.N. post, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives (1995-1997).

A. Peter Burleigh, US-Ambassador designate to India
Dr. Peter Burleigh, new US Ambassador-designate

Ambassador Burleigh held a number of senior positions at the State Department and served in United States embassies in Nepal, Bahrain, and India, as well as Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Burleigh received his undergraduate degree from Colgate University, served in the Peace Corps (1963-1965) in Nepal, doing community development work in the far west of that country, and spent a year on a Fulbright scholarship in Nepal.  Ambassador Burleigh speaks Bengali and Hindi. He is the first US Ambassador to India to be fluent in the language.  He lived Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a number of years and  served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Miami. He is also one of the first open gay members of the US diplomatic corps; some in India may find that controversial in a country that technically outlaws homosexuality, based on Victorian British era laws. Burleigh was posted in New Delhi from April to July 2009 as charge d’affairs in the US Embassy New Delhi.

Ambassador A Peter Burleigh in 2009 at Osmania U while CDA
At Osmania University, Hyderabad, India in 2009

What this means

The first US ambassador to have considerable South Asia experience and certainly the first to speak Hindi will be an asset. But some may argue that his lack of recent prominence means that India is fading in importance to the Obama administration. I am reluctant to draw that conclusion, let us give Amb Burleigh a few months to engage in his role and then judge how it goes.


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