Notwithstanding reports that its Ambassador to India Nancy Powell resigned due to recent tensions in bilateral ties, the US has insisted that she "retired" to take "much needed rest" after 37 years of illustrious Foreign Service.
"Retirement. It's an important distinction," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at her daily news conference for the second consecutive day when asked about 66-year-old Powell's resignation.
"It's a much needed rest, yes," she said yesterday apparently referring to Powell's long career as a diplomat in countries like Uganda, Ghana, Pakistan, Nepal and India.
On Monday, the US Embassy in New Delhi issued a late night statement according to which Powell announced in a Town Hall meeting that "she has submitted her resignation" to US President Barack Obama, and as planned for some time, will retire to her home in Delaware before the end of May.
In Powell's absence, Deputy Chief of Mission Michael P Pelletier would assume temporary charge.
"The DCM will be serving as the chief of mission when Ambassador Powell leaves India," Harf said.
"Obviously, we believe that having ambassadors in place is incredibly important. That's why we've called on Congress where we have ambassadors nominated or other positions nominated," she said referring to the fact that a number of ambassadorial appointments are being held by the Congress.
"I would also say that the relationship is bigger than just one person...We have relationships between Washington in the field with other countries as well. So the relationships are much bigger than just the ambassador, but we do believe it's important."
Meanwhile, the mainstream American media refused to buy the official argument that Powell's resignation is routine and described this a result of the ongoing tension between India and the US.
"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, an Indian diplomat in New York, on charges of falsifying visa documents for her maid/nanny and then lying to investigators about what she was paying the domestic worker," The Washington Post wrote.
According to The New York Times, Powell's resignation was greeted by many in New Delhi's diplomatic community yesterday with a sense of hope that some of the grinding disputes between the US and India might soon be settled.
"Her tenure, though, was marred with frosty ties between the US and India, and particularly with right-wing Bharatiya JanataParty, which has emerged as the front-runner for polls this year," The Wall Street Journal reported.
Harf on Monday said Powell's exit does not indicate any realignment of America's ties with India. "All the rumours and speculation are, quite frankly, totally false. She is retiring."