Washington, Nov. 15: America's secretary of state Colin Powell, whose influence in the White House failed to match his larger-than-life image in the Bush administration and in capitals across the globe, today announced that he would not remain in office in the second Bush term. His resignation will take effect as soon as a replacement takes office.
Powell and India's leadership shared an uncomfortable relationship throughout his nearly four years as America's chief diplomat, an upturn in India-US relations during this period notwithstanding.
His spat with Indians, sometimes open and at other times in private, continued right until a few days ago. The last incident was sparked by an interview Powell gave to USA Today in the final weeks of the American presidential election campaign.
He claimed in that interview to have scripted a telephone call between former Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali on April 28 last year, which led to full restoration of diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan and subsequent peace talks.
That interview prompted a strong refutal of the claim by former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh, who described Powell's version of events as 'fabricated and baseless'.
The spat did not end there as state department spokesman Richard Boucher defended Powell the next day by saying: 'The story as told by the secretary is the true story'.
Powell, according to Washington grapevine, is likely to be replaced by the US ambassador to the UN, John Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, or by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
India would be happy with the choice of Rice, who is already said to have a working relationship with her Indian counterpart, J.N. Dixit. The two have been in contact by phone.
America's first black secretary of state, Powell was an icon among African-Americans and was once talked of as the only black who could bid for the presidency.
Despite his popularity, President Bill Clinton feared that Republicans might field Powell as their nominee for the White House in 1996 and get away with an upset win.
Much of that sheen has since worn off, especially after Powell disappointed his admirers by not resigning over the war in Iraq, which he resisted in favour of a multilateral approach and diplomacy.
Singer Harry Bellafonte, another black icon in America, said of Powell then: 'In the days of slavery, there were those slaves who lived on the plantation, and there were those slaves that lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master'.
He added: 'Colin Powell is permitted to come into the house of the master. When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture'.
Son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell had a successful military career spanning 35 years in the US army, rising to be the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. He also served as national security adviser.
A moderate in the Bush team, he lost several policy battles within the administration to its more conservative proponents of unilateralism such as vice-president Dick
Cheney and defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld differed on a range of issues from Korea to Iraq to racism.
An outstanding and popular diplomat, he will regrettably be remembered for going before the UN Security Council in the run-up to the war and claiming irrefutable proof of Saddam Hussein's ambitions for weapons of mass destruction ' claims which proved to be untrue.
Powell joins three other Bush cabinet members who announced their resignations during the weekend: agriculture secretary Ann Veneman, education secretary Rod Paige and energy secretary Spencer Abraham.