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No buyers for former US ambassador Nancy Powell's 'retirement' story

Washington: No one is buying the American story that the resignation of US ambassador in India, Nancy Powell, was unrelated to recent tensions between the two countries, but as yet there is no definitive word about her likely successor.

Nancy Powell
Former US ambassador Nancy powell. Pic: IANS

A section of the Indian media has speculated that Powell may be replaced by USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, the highest ranking Indian American in the Obama administration, as the US tries to clean the slate with India.

But analysts said President Barack Obama is unlikely to win Senate approval of a political appointee in a hurry in a deeply divided Washington even as there is bipartisan support for strong India-US relations.

Time magazine linked the resignation to the recent diplomatic row over the Khobragade affair noting that it came weeks after "US-Indian relations floundered in December after police in New York City detained and allegedly strip-searched" Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

The New York Times said in a story from the Indian capital that Powell's resignation "was greeted by many in New Delhi's diplomatic community Tuesday with a sense of hope that some of the grinding disputes between the United States and India might soon be settled".

The Washington Post also noted that Powell had resigned "after only two years on the job, sparking some speculation overseas that the administration may have been looking to replace her".

Noting that "Powell only arrived in India in April 2012, and these diplomatic posts typically last three years", the Post said: "The buzz in New Delhi is that Powell's departure may be related to ongoing tensions over the uproar in India after the arrest of Devyani Khobragade."

However, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf on Monday denied that Powell's sudden resignation was in any way "related to any tension, any recent situations" between India and the US.

"There's no big behind-the-scenes story here," Harf told reporters suggesting "this is the end of a distinguished 37-year career".

"I think after 37 years, she deserves to retire."

"But I want to dispel any rumours out there that this is related in any, to anything besides her long-planned retirement," she said.

"It's not at all related to anything happening in the relationship, it doesn't indicate any realignment of the relationship."

Meanwhile, the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), which describes itself as the political voice of the Indian American community, has urged President Barack Obama to appoint a new ambassador to India.

"Having a senior leader in New Delhi is vital to ironing out differences on some of the issues that have crept up between the two countries so that a purposeful new beginning is made to turbo-charge the relationship," it said.

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