WASHINGTON: It's a slick, urbane touch from someone regarded as a superannuated diplomat of the old school. Nancy Powell, the new U.S ambassador to India, who arrives in New Delhi this week, is introducing herself to Indians through a you tube video in which she reveals her strong connections to the subcontinent and an ambitious agenda built on a ''rock solid foundation.''
Wielding a souped-up camera and disclosing she is an avid photographer, Powell, 65, is shown walking around the National Mall in Washington DC as she speaks about her time in India from 1992 to 1995 when she served as a U.S Consul-General in Kolkata and a political counselor in New Delhi. Between a sequence of vivid pictures she took during her India stints, Powell says she looks forward to returning to a country with which the Obama administration believes it forms one of the definitive partnerships of the 21st century.
''I am impressed by how much deeper and broader Indian-American relations have become and how much greater role India now plays in addressing the world's challenges,'' Powell says in her 2:36 minute video, which was subtitled in 10 Indian languages including Marathi, Kannada, Bangla, and Urdu, and released by U.S missions in India. Before her surprise posting to New Delhi, Powell was U.S ambassador to Nepal and Pakistan, and before that, to Ghana and Uganda.
Powell, 65, was virtually pulled out of limbo and nominated to go to New Delhi amid surprise in regional circles which expected a political heavyweight to be sent to what Washington says is one of its most important relationships. But with less than a year to go before Presidential and Congressional elections, there were few takers for the job from among political fat cats who would prefer to see the November election results and then take up an assured assignment of at least three years instead of having to resign in November if President Obama loses.
For a while, it looked like Washington would keep the post unfilled till the end of the year even though it would have meant an unprecedented 18-month vacancy in New Delhi's Roosevelt House, home of the U.S ambassador to India. Tim Roemer, the last incumbent resigned in April 2011, and the post is being manned by Peter Burleigh, another career diplomat stand-in.
But in a surprise decision, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned to Powell, a career diplomat who was thought to be well on her way to retirement after her final assignment as Director General of the United States Foreign Service. The U.S Senate confirmed her without much fuss last month given her track as a consummate insider.
Powell has now indicated that she intends to leave her own imprint on the ties regardless of the tattle about Washington downgrading ties with India, her lack of access to the White House, or the limitations of her tenure during an election year. Her stay in New Delhi, she says, will be more than a nostalgia trip, reconnecting with friends, and returning to walks in Lodhi Gardens.
''I am not focused on reliving the past,'' she says, and speaks of capturing a ''future of even stronger ties between U.S and India.''
''Phir milenge,'' ("Till we meet again,") she concludes, just ahead of emplaning for New Delhi.