On May 30, the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center held a public discussion on “India-US Strategic Dialogue: Expanding Horizons of Bilateral Partnership,” with H.E. Nirupama Rao, ambassador of India to the United States.

 Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center, Atlantic Council welcomed H.E. Nirupama Rao and Nelson W. Cunningham, managing partner and co-founder of McLarty Associates, who moderated the session.

The fundamental interests of the United States and India converge on most matters of strategic importance, placing the India-US partnership on a positive trajectory. This sustained, productive strategic partnership is based on shared prosperity, democratic values, and solving global and regional problems in an interconnected world. What are the key drivers of an expanding and multi-dimensional India-US partnership? Can the United States and India build on their partnership through increased trade, development initiatives, and security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region? Ambassador Rao answered these questions among others, and addressed how this strategic partnership can be taken to a new level.


Mrs. Nirupama Rao assumed her responsibilities as ambassador of India to the United States in September 2011.

On completion of her University studies, and with a MA in English literature, she joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1973. In a diplomatic career spanning over three decades, she served in various world capitals, including Washington, Beijing and Moscow. She acquired extensive experience in India-China relations, having served in the East Asia Division of the Ministry at policy level capacities for several years, and later served as India’s first woman ambassador to China from 2006 to 2009. Her other ambassadorial assignments include Peru and Bolivia, and Sri Lanka (where she was India’s first woman high commissioner).

Mrs. Rao served in Washington as minister for press and cultural affairs at the Indian Embassy from 1993 to 1995. Shortly after, she also served in Moscow as deputy chief of mission from the Embassy of India. On return to New Delhi in 2001, she became the first women Indian foreign service officer to hold the post of spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs.

On completion of her tenures in Sri Lanka and in China, she was appointed foreign secretary, the highest office in the Indian Foreign Service, where she served a two-year term until July 2011.

Ambassador Rao was a fellow at the Centre for International Affairs (now the Weatherhead Centre) at Harvard University in the early 1990s. She was also a distinguished international executive in residence at the University of Maryland in 1999-2000.

Ambassador Rao is married to Sudhakar Rao, a distinguished civil servant and former member of the Indian Administrative Service who retired as the chief secretary of the State Government of Karnataka. They have two sons, Nikhilesh and Kartikeya.

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