NEW DELHI, INDIA -- Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, 90, a former Indian ambassador to the United States and U.N. General Assembly president who was a sister of the first Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, died Dec. 1 in Dehra Dun, a town in the Himalayan foothills where she had lived for the last 20 years.

Mrs. Pandit's political and diplomatic career spanned four decades.

She led India's first delegations to the United Nations and was president of the General Assembly in 1953 and 1954. She was the first woman to hold that post.

She had served in Parliament for 14 years. She was ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1947 to 1949, ambassador to the United States from 1949 to 1952, and high commissioner to Britain from 1954 to 1961. She also had served as ambassador to Spain.

Mrs. Pandit was born in the north Indian town of Allahabad into the aristocratic family that governed India for 37 of its 43 years of independence. Like her famous brother, she did not attend school and was educated at home. She played an active role in India's struggle for independence and was imprisoned three times by the British colonial government for her political activities.

Although close to her brother, she became a staunch critic of his daughter, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, when Gandhi's rule became increasingly authoritarian in the 1970s. In 1977, Mrs. Pandit backed a coalition of opposition parties that ousted Gandhi from power for two years.

She said she broke with Gandhi in the 1960s after being refused a second term as high commissioner in London. "Well, Puphi {Aunt} I don't really trust you," she quoted her niece as saying.

After Gandhi's assassination in 1984, Mrs. Pandit renewed family ties with her niece's son, Rajiv Gandhi, who served as prime minister from 1984 to 1989.

Mrs. Pandit, who was a lover of nature and literature and a human rights activist, possessed a sharp wit. When she was president of the General Assembly, a reporter once inquired about the color of her sari, the traditional attire of Indian women.

She shot back, "Did you ask my predecessor the color of his tie?"

She married lawyer Ranjit Pandit, who died in 1942 after a long imprisonment for his political views. Survivors include a daughter, novelist Nayantara Sahgal.