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 here today 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.
“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 tonight.
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 Washington 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.