Atul Keshap, current deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department, was cleared by the U.S. Senate to take over as the new envoy to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Aug. 5. He becomes the 2nd person of Indian descent to be appointed ambassador to a foreign country after Richard Rahul Verma, U.S. ambassador to India.
Verma and Keshap as well as several other Indian-Americans, serve in important diplomatic and foreign policy positions in the Obama administration. Nisha Desai Biswal is assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, and Puneet Talwar is assistant secretary for political-military affairs. In addition, Arun Madhavan Kumar serves as assistant secretary of commerce and director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.
Keshap was born in Nigeria to Keshap Chander Sen, a United Nations development economist in Nigeria in 1971, Indo Asian News Service reported. His mother, Zoe Calvert, a U.S. Foreign Service official, met and married Sen in London. Keshap and his 3 siblings were brought up in Lesotho, Zambia, Afghanistan and Austria, according to Indo Asian News Service.
A seasoned foreign service man, Keshap was a senior official for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2012 to 2013. 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, “engaging in day-to-day management of U.S. foreign policy toward a strategically important region that comprises a fifth of the world’s population,” according to the State Department.
He also served in India from 2005-2008 as deputy political counselor and in that capacity was one of Ambassador David Mulford’s principal advisors on the U.S.-India civilian nuclear energy cooperation initiative, and also worked to implement the broader strategic partnership with India at all levels in close coordination with the Indian government while managing a large political reporting and outreach team, according to the State Department. From 2008-2010, he was director for UN Human Rights in the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs. From 2003-2004, he was director for Near Eastern and North African Affairs in the National Security Council, prior to which he was special assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs from 2002-2003.
He is the recipient of several State Department 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 afterwards.
He has bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Virginia.