Alice G Wells, the Trump administration’s point person for South and Central Asia and a votary for strong US-India strategic ties, will retire this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced, as he thanked the senior diplomat for her “wise counsel and dedicated efforts” to bolster America’s bilateral relations with the countries in the region.
Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, has also served as a political officer at the US Embassy in India and Pakistan. She has studied Hindi and Urdu.
Secretary of State Pompeo on Sunday took to Twitter to announce her retirement as he praised the veteran career foreign service officer for rendering her valuable services.
“After 31 years of dedicated service, Ambassador Alice Wells will retire from @StateDept this month. I will miss Alice’s wise counsel and dedicated efforts to build relationships and address challenges across South and Central Asia, he said.
I personally came to admire Ambassador Wells’ dedication to our team’s mission and her dogged pursuit of American excellence. We commend her service and wish her the best, Pompeo said in another tweet.
She will be succeeded by new acting assistant secretary Tom Vajda, a seasoned American diplomat on South Asia who has earlier been the US consul general in Mumbai, a media report quoted the State Department as saying.
In January, Wells visited India for a series of bilateral meetings and the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi and met senior government officials to advance the US-India strategic global partnership following the success of the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in December in Washington.
A votary of strong US-India ties, including enhanced military cooperation amidst China flexing its muscles in the Indo-Pacific and in the Indian Ocean, Wells has frequently highlighted the commonalities between the world’s biggest democracy and the world’s oldest democracy.
She has said that the quality and frequency of India-US naval cooperation, especially the information sharing, have reached unprecedented levels with continued progress on defence cooperation, peacekeeping operations, space, counterterrorism, trade, people-to-people initiatives, and more.
Terming the ties between India and the US “unshakeable”, she said that the US and India enjoy a close partnership that grows stronger day by day.
Her significant travel to New Delhi happened a month ahead of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump’s state visit to India on February 24 and 25 at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Wells has also been wary of some of the Indian government’s decisions on Jammu and Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and has publicly raised them.
New Delhi has defended its move, saying Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the issue was strictly internal to the country, and the special status provisions only gave rise to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Indian government has maintained that the CAA, which was passed by Parliament, is an internal matter of the country and stressed that the goal is to protect the oppressed minorities of neighbouring countries.
Wells has also been putting pressure on Pakistan to rein-in the terror groups on its soil and help lower tensions with India.
During her tenure, she has expressed concern over terrorist groups continuing to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan and asked the country to do more against “externally oriented” extremist outfits.
“We have expressed our concern over the fact that terrorist proxy groups continue to be able to enjoy safe haven in Pakistan. We are urging the government to do more to bring pressure to bear against these organisations, externally oriented terrorist groups,” Wells said in August 2018.
She has been critical of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, saying there was no transparency and the firms blacklisted by the World Bank have got contracts which will increase the cash-strapped country’s debt burden.