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India's Female Ambassadors to America

July 2009
India's Female Ambassadors to America

Before Meera Shankar recently took over as India’s 20th ambassador to the United States, only one other woman had served in that capacity.

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Prime Minister Nehru’s sister, was the first Indian female and the second Indian to become the ambassador to this country. She held the job from 1949 to 1952, and was preceded by K. Asaf Ali, who became the envoy soon after India gained independence in 1947. Earlier, Pandit had served as India’s first ambassador to the Soviet Union. After completing her term in the U.S., Pandit earned further distinction as the first woman to be elected president of the United Nations General Assembly. She was also the first woman to hold a cabinet position in the Indian central government.

TIDBIT: Following India’s independence, the U.S. was the first nation to exchange ambassadors with it. No women, so far, have served as American envoys to India.

Meera Shankar is no stranger to the Indian-American community. From 1991 to 1995, she served as an Indian commerce minister in this country. Later, she oversaw cultural diplomacy at the Indian Council of Cultural Relations in New Delhi. Her other roles as a diplomat include a stint as additional secretary, making her responsible for the U.N. and international security. Prior to coming here, Shankar was the Indian envoy to Germany.

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