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US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell resigns

Media reports speculate US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell replaced in an effort by the Obama administration to repair ties with the Indian government

New Delhi: In a sudden development, US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell on Monday resigned in the midst of general elections in India in which Narendra Modi is perceived to be a front runner for the post of Prime Minister.

The announcement of her resignation to her colleagues in the US mission on Monday came a week after media reports here that she may be shipped out by the Obama Administration to "clean the state" with India.

Powell has been in India for less than three years.

Nancy Powell and Narendra Modi
In this handout photograph released by the Government of Gujarat, Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi (R) shakes hands with US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell (L) as they met in Gandhinagar. Pic/AFP

"US Ambassador to India Nancy J Powell announced in a US Mission Town Hall meeting March 31 that she has submitted her resignation to President Obama and, as planned for some time, will retire to her home in Delaware before the end of May," an announcement in the US Embassy website said.

This was her last assignment and She will retire from service.

"She is ending a 37-year career that has included postings as US Ambassador to Uganda, Ghana, Pakistan, Nepal and India as well as service in Canada, Togo, Bangladesh, and Washington, where she was most recently Director General of the Foreign Service," said a US embassy press statement.

Powell expressed her appreciation for the "professionalism and dedication of the US Mission to India team who have worked to expand the parameters of the US-India bilateral relationship. She also thanked those throughout India who have extended traditional warm Indian hospitality to her and who have supported stronger bilateral ties," the statement said.

Embassy sources did not want to hazard a guess on the decision of the 67-year-old career service officer to quit her post and return home at a time when India is in an election process and Washington is also deeply interested in its outcome.

There was media speculation a week ago that Powell would be replaced with a political appointee as an attempt by the Obama administration to "clean the state" with India.

The report had said Powell had dragged her heels on meeting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and was perceived as being "too close" to the UPA's foreign policy establishment.

However, when Washing decided to warm upto Modi, who is perceived as one of the front runners for the prime minister's post, Powell met Modi on February 13, ending a nine-year-old boycott of the Gujarat leader on the issue of 2002 post-Godhra riots.

The US move marked a u-turn in its earlier stand of having nothing to do with Modi, whose visa it cancelled in 2005 under a domestic law on the issue of "severe violations of religious freedom". Ever since it had refused to review its policy.

Earlier, the EU and Britain had also ended their boycott of Modi and warmed up to him in the run up to the polls.

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