US ambassador to India resigns

By Mubasshir Mushtaq, Monday, March 31, 2014

The U.S. Ambassador to India resigns as India prepares for national elections.

The U.S. Ambassador to India resigns as India prepares for national elections.

NEW DELHI - U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell resigned from her post on Monday days after media reports speculated that she may be recalled.

“U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell announced in a U.S. Mission Town Hall meeting, March 31, that she has submitted her resignation to U.S. President Barack Obama,” a statement released by the U.S. embassy said.

The 67-year-old American diplomat did not give any particular reason for the sudden resignation but did say that she plans to retire to her home in Delaware before the end of May.

The high-profile resignation comes a week before crucial elections in India, which are likely to replace the ruling Congress party coalition government, according to opinion polls.

The U.S. State Department dismissed media reports that Powell resigned because of differences with it. “There is no truth to any of your question about differences. She is retiring after 37 years of service,” Marie Harf, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesperson told reporters.

Foreign policy watchers see this sudden move as an attempt by the U.S. to start a new beginning with controversial Indian politician Narendra Modi, the front running candidate for the role prime minister. 

The Gujarat chief minister and right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, Modi, was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 for his alleged complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots which killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, in the western Indian state.

However, in February the U.S. decided to end its nine year boycott of the right-wing politician when Powell met Modi at his official residence in Gandhinagar, capital of Gujarat. It was the first high-profile meeting between Modi and the American diplomat since 2005 signaling normalization of ties before the former possibly becomes India's Prime Minister.  

Powell has served as U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Ghana, Pakistan and Nepal. Before her Indian posting, she was the Director General of the Foreign Service in Washington.

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