Soon after newly-elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has confirmed his one-to-one meeting with US President Barack Obama in September, the American officials are gearing up to appoint a permanent ambassador to the South Asian country ahead of Modi’s visit to Washington.


A couple of days back, the Indian External Affairs Ministry said that Modi would arrive in Washington after attending the UN General Assembly in New York in the third week of September.

On Friday, a top official of the Obama administration told the US media that it would be important for a new envoy to take charge of the US Embassy in New Delhi ahead of Modi’s visit. He also indicated that Washington would try its best to convince the visiting Indian leader that America was seriously considering the South Asian powerhouse as an ‘important partner’ in the region. Meanwhile, the official admitted that the bilateral relation has deteriorated since the Devyani Khobragade episode. According to him, although former US Envoy to India Nancy Powell, who had resigned in March in the backdrop of the Khobragade incident, had claimed that the Indian diplomat’s arrest in the US would not affect the bilateral ties, her prediction was wrong.

Meanwhile, the recent political changes in New Delhi have encouraged Washington to make serious efforts to come closer to India again. As a result, the Obama administration has decided to appoint a fulltime ambassador to New Delhi even after appointing Kathleen Stephens as an interim envoy to the South Asian country. Stephens took charge in the Indian capital on Friday and as per US norms, she should continue for the next six months. It usually takes three-six months for any US ambassador to take charge in a country. But, the Obama administration is ready to make an exception in India’s case this time. The official, who wants to remain unanimous, stressed: “An ambassador can be an anchor to bilateral relationship. And with the maiden strategic dialogue with the new dispensation and thereafter a PM visit, it is imperative to have a full-fledged ambassador.”

Commenting on the issue, Robinder Sachdev of advocacy group Indo-US Political Action Committee (for bilateral interests) said that the US was eager to resume negotiations with India immediately on a number of issues. As a result, according to him, Washington has decided to send Secretary of State John Kerry to India in July. Although the Indian External Affairs Ministry is yet to accept the proposal of Kerry’s visit, spokesperson of the ministry Syed Akbaruddin told the ‘The Economic Times’ daily that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj could visit Washington ahead of Modi’s September trip.

The Indian political experts are of the opinion that there will certainly be a change in paradigm as far as Indo-US relation is concerned. They believe that both Modi and Obama have already shown their interests in working together in the coming months.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]