The U.S. Ambassador to India, Nancy J. Powell, stepped down on Tuesday as the recent chilliness between the United States and India continues. Reports NYT:
Ms. Powell told a gathering at the embassy that her departure was unrelated to growing problems with India, she had become a focus of unhappiness among Indian diplomats and politicians. Indian news media had reported speculation that the United States was considering replacing Ms. Powell in hopes of improving ties. […]American diplomats have largely refused to speak publicly about the growing problems, describing the disputes as routine disagreements that other countries would resolve quietly.
Tensions began last December when U.S. marshals arrested and searched an Indian diplomat who was accused of submitting false papers and mistreating a housekeeper. India dismissed two American diplomats in retaliation, and backed Russia when the United States sought Indian support in opposing the invasion of Crimea. Washington and Delhi aren’t exactly living up to what President Obama called the “defining partnership of the 21st century.”India’s upcoming Prime Ministerial election may change that. The frontrunner is Narendra Modi, who has had a troubled relationship with the United States in the past. The State Department has refused to issue him a visa after the Gujarat riots of 2002, which he is accused of doing nothing to stop, and U.S. officials have often avoided him when visiting India. But one of Ambassador Powell’s last moves was to meet with Modi on her trip to India in February. And according to a Congressional report released yesterday, Modi will be granted a visa and diplomatic immunity should he be elected this month.India, the United States, and America’s allies in Asia share an interest in balancing an increasingly aggressive China, a topic on which Modi has been outspoken. In a recent speech in Arunachal Pradesh, a region China claims as “South Tibet,” Modi called on China to abandon its expansionist policies. He also supports a stronger military and economic relationship between India and Japan, America’s key ally in East Asia.The United States and India are long-standing allies with common interests, and the recent chill between them will probably soon pass, perhaps with the help of India’s next Prime Minister. Given the increasingly tense situation in Asia, that would be a great relief all around.