The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 13-8 to approve his nomination last week, setting up a vote by the full 100-member senate…reports Yashwant Raj
Eric Garcetti was confirmed as the next US Ambassador to India on Wednesday, ending a logjam that had left an important American mission abroad without a regular envoy for almost two years and his fate in the balance.
The US Senate confirmed him in a 52-42 vote with cross-voting from both parties, with several Democrats voting against Garcetti, a nominee of the Democratic President Joe Biden, and several Republicans siding voting for him.
Garcetti, a former Mayor of Los Angeles, was once a rising star in the Democratic party, but had had come under severe criticism lately for ignoring complaints of sexual harassment against one of senior aides. His nomination had been stalled over these allegations, which came up during his confirmation hearing.
President Biden had first nominated him in July 2021, but it did not proceed and it was technically deemed as returned to the White House, to either be re-sent or replaced.
The Biden White House sent back the nomination this January when the new congress went into session, demonstrating the administration’s unwavering backing for him, which, it was noted, will hold him in good stead by those who may tend to consider him damaged because of the protracted fight over his confirmation.
Garcetti’s re-nomination had run into fresh trouble in February when Republican Senator Marco Rubio announced a hold on it along with a bunch of others, including Rich Verma, who has been named to be a Deputy Secretary of State, and Geeta Rao Gupta as Ambassador at large for global women’s issues.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 13-8 to approve his nomination last week, setting up a vote by the full 100-member senate.
With Garcetti’s nomination stalled and the Biden administration refusing to name a nomination, observers of the bilateral relationship wondered if this was a manifestation of a deeper problem between India and US, because this was possibly the longest America has not had an ambassador in New Delhi.
This prolonged period of no-ambassador also coincided with extraordinary delays in issuance of US visas in India, with the waiting period for first-time applicants for business and tourism visas reaching two years at its worst (it’s been cut down considerably now).
Relations between the two countries were in an overdrive with President Biden putting the Quad front and centre of his Indo-Pacific strategy early in his administration, resulting in several virtual and in-person meetings bilaterally with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and multilaterally, with counterparts from Japan and Australia.
At his confirmation hearing, Garcetti had vowed to “double-down on our efforts to strengthen India’s capacity to secure its borders, defend its sovereignty, and deter aggression” — music to ears on Raisina Hill but he also plans to raise thorny issues such as the Indian purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence missile system, human rights, and democratic values.
Garcetti was once widely expected to run for White House, given his credentials: Hispanic descent, top Democratic operative, a top operative in a presidential campaign, Rhodes scholar at Oxford and alumnus of London School of Economics. Fifty one-year-old Garcetti is close to the White House and was once considered a potential member of the Biden cabinet but the same allegations that came up during his confirmation hearing had come in his way.
USISPF, USIBC congratulates new envoy
The United States-India Strategic Partnership Forum and US-India Business Council congratulated the former mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti on his confirmation as the next envoy to India.
In the statement, USISPF President and CEO Mukesh Aghi said Garcetti, who had led Los Angeles, one of the most vibrant cities in the world, would understand that working with all stakeholders will be essential in moving forward the most significant relationship of the 21st century, the US-India partnership. The statement came after the US Senate confirmed Garcetti to be the US ambassador to India with a vote of 52 to 42.
“Eric has a deep understanding and affection towards India and the Indian people, and I have no doubt he will hit the ground running when he lands in Delhi. Eric brings the humility of a great leader who is constantly looking to improve and make a difference. He is also a big-picture guy!” the statement read.
“We want to thank Senator Major Leader, Senator Schumer, for bringing this critical vote to the Senate floor. The US and India partnership is a bipartisan priority. We have much to accomplish in 2023 and beyond, starting with the Quad Summit, a potential State visit, and a list of G-20 activities. USISPF is proud to support Ambassador Garcetti in his new role and wishes him all the success,” the statement added.
“The U.S. India Business Council is pleased that the Senate has confirmed Eric Garcetti as the U.S. Ambassador to India. As the world’s largest democracy and fastest growing large economy, India is an essential partner to the United States as it seeks to bolster its strategic, technological, and economic leadership in the Indo-Pacific,” said Ambassador Atul Keshap, President of USIBC.
“I wish Ambassador Garcetti a successful posting in New Delhi. Having a U.S. Ambassador to India is critical as both great democracies work to build their Quad partnership and high-trust ecosystem, underpinned by shared democratic values,” he added.
Alexander Slater, USIBC’s Managing Director and head of its New Delhi Office, also welcomed Ambassador Garcetti. He said that the USIBC supports the appointment of a US Ambassador to India and knows that Ambassador Garcetti brings significant leadership experience to the position.
USIBC looks forward to continuing our close engagement with the US Embassy under his guidance, especially on key drivers of the bilateral relationship such as the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies,” he said.
“Eric Garcetti’s appointment as Ambassador sends an important signal to the Government and people of India as well as industry in both countries about the importance President Biden places on the U.S.-India relationship. USIBC will work collaboratively with him and the Government of India to strengthen bilateral strategic and economic ties and promote a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” he added.
Meanwhile, Shreerupa Mitra, USIBC’s Deputy Managing Director, highlighted that this confirmation comes at a key time for US-India relations, with India taking up the G20 presidency for the first time this year.
“As a vital source of high-skilled talent and a rising hub for high-value manufacturing, India has a global role to play in fortifying supply chains and achieving sustainable development goals. The confirmation of Eric Garcetti as the U.S. Ambassador to India will add necessary focus and energy behind these efforts, ultimately helping both our countries achieve critical goals in decarbonization, human development, and economic resilience.” On behalf of USIBC, Mitra added that the Council is grateful for the strong stewardship shown to date by Ambassador Beth Jones as Charge d’Affaires
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