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US gives warm send-off to Meera Shankar

Secretary Clinton met with Shankar at the Department of State in Washington, DC on July 27, 2011.

India's outgoing ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar was showered with praises as the US administration gave her a warm send-off with the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauding her role in strengthening the partnership between the two countries.

Shankar presided over as India's envoy in the US during a period when the bilateral relations were going through historic transformation.

"On behalf of the American people and the Obama Administration, I extend my best wishes to you as your celebrated tenure as the ambassador of India comes to an end," Clinton told her when she met the Ambassador before the latter left for India.

In fact the last week of Shankar's tenure was packed with a number of receptions hosted in her honor. "I thank you for your service and remain deeply grateful to you for helping to strengthen the important partnership between our two countries," Clinton said at a State Department reception hosted in her honor.

Ambassador Meera Shankar hosted a Farewell Reception at the Embassy Residence on July 28.

Meera Shankar at a farewell organized by the Indian American community leaders in Washington, DC Ambassador Meera Shankar hosted a Farewell Reception at the Embassy Residence on July 28. 22 NRI

Later, at a reception hosted by Shankar at her residence, the Deputy Energy Secretary, Daniel Poneman said Shankar was one of the most effective and influential diplomats. "She was well-prepared, eloquent, at the same time reasonable as she pursued her country's interests," he said.

The Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats said Shankar had pursued the challenging task of representing India in the US, reaching out not only to the government but also the Congress, the business community, think tanks and the media.

"She traveled extensively across the United States and projected India even to those who had very little knowledge of the country and its achievements, in a very clear, positive and convincing manner," he said.

Shankar was also presented with a US flag in recognition of her achievements, along with a certificate sent by Congressman Ed Royce, co-chair of the India Caucus in the House of Representatives.

In her remarks, Shankar recalled the very successful visit of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to the US in November 2009 and President Obama's visit to India in November 2010 and outlined the growth of the relationship between the two countries.

The Indian community of the Greater Washington Area too hosted a reception for the ambassador where Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Bureau, highlighted the immense contribution made by her in serving India's interests in Washington

In an interview before leaving for India, Shankar talked about deepening Indo-US relations and more…

On the current of state bilateral relations: We continue to deepen our relationship with the US across a very broad spectrum — political, strategic and economic.

The visit of secretary Clinton to India for the strategic dialogue will review the considerable progress that we have made since President Obama's historic visit last November, explore new initiatives and chart out the course for the future and also exchange views on the situation in our neighborhood and beyond.

On whether there are likely to be any fresh initiative:We are working on several initiatives, including in the areas of civil aviation, energy and investment which will provide new avenues for cooperation.

On the role of defense purchases in the strategic relationship: Our defence relationship is an important component of overall strategic relationship. We have purchased about US $8 billion worth defence equipment from US in recent years. As Indian modernizes its armed forces, there will be more such opportunities.

On India's apprehensions about the drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan: We both want Afghanistan to develop as a secure, stable, independent, prosperous and democratic state. Even as the US proceeds with its drawdown, it would need to be ensured that this overall objective is achieved. We hope to have a discussion on the situation in Afghanistan and also how we could work together for achieving a future of peace and stability.