Senate confirms President Biden's top aide Eric Garcetti as US Ambassador to India

NewsDrum Desk
16 Mar 2023

Washington, Mar 16 (PTI) Eric Garcetti, President Joe Biden's close aide, will be the next US Ambassador to India after the Senate confirmed his nomination, ending a protracted hiatus of over two years to fill the key diplomatic position.

The Senate voted 52-42 to confirm the former Los Angeles mayor's nomination on Wednesday. Garcetti, 52, lost the votes of three Democrats but convinced seven Republicans to cross the aisle, winning him the prestigious diplomatic posting.

His nomination was pending before the US Congress since July 2021 when he was nominated by President Biden.

Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 13-8 in favour of his nomination.

"The relationship between India and the US is a strong one, and one of great strategic, economic, and cultural importance. Founded on shared values, supported by growing economic and trade ties, and strengthened by the Indian diaspora here in the US, this partnership continues to hold significant promise for the future," said Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of Senate India Caucus.

"As co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, I am glad that there will finally be a Senate-confirmed ambassador in New Delhi," Warner said.

Garcetti's nomination was not brought to the Senate floor for a vote during the last Congress as the ruling Democratic Party did not have enough support to get him through.

When the Republican Party took control of the House this year, Senate Democrats pushed most legislation to the back burner and prioritised moving stalled nominees, including that of Garcetti.

He was not confirmed by the Senate in President Biden's first two years in office amid concerns by some lawmakers that Garcetti had not adequately handled allegations of sexual assault and harassment against a former senior adviser.

President Biden renominated Garcetti to the same position in January this year.

Kenneth Juster, the last US envoy in New Delhi, stepped down in January 2021 after the change of government in America.

"The outcome was anything but guaranteed. Democratic defections had mounted Wednesday morning, with several senators citing lingering questions about whether Garcetti knew or should have known about a former top aide's alleged sexual harassment of colleagues," the Los Angeles Times newspaper commented.

Some Democrats had publicly expressed concern about whether Garcetti knew about the sexual harassment that his former aide Rick Jacobs allegedly committed.

Garcetti supporters argued that geopolitical concerns were too important to leave India without an ambassador. The US Embassy in India has been without an ambassador since January 2021, the longest stretch in the history of US-India relations that the post has sat vacant.

"This has become a grave national security concern of mine — not to have an ambassador in place. Our strategic partners wouldn’t conceive of going two years into the establishment of a government or administration and failing to place their person in the role,” said Young, one of the two Republicans who supported Garcetti in committee.

President Biden called the vote “important” at a Tuesday night fundraiser in Nevada, according to The New York Times, with the White House reaching out to some senators in recent days to ensure his nomination was voted through.

Multiple men accused Garcetti’s former advisor Jacobs of sexual misconduct in 2020, behaviour the former Los Angeles mayor is accused of knowing about. Garcetti has denied any wrongdoing.

He told lawmakers that if he had known about the harassment, he would have done something about it.

Meanwhile, Indian-Americans have welcomed Garcetti's confirmation as the US ambassador to India and are hopeful that his close relationship with President Biden will serve the crucial bilateral ties quite well.

M R Rangaswami, founder-chairman of Indiaspora, an influential non-profit that serves as a network of Indian-origin leaders across diverse fields, said Garcetti showed his resilience and commitment to the India-US relationship through his tough confirmation.

“(We are) relieved and also excited that someone like Eric is going to be there (in India) building on the relationship,” Rangaswamy said.

Yogi Chugh, entrepreneur and community leader from California, said Garcetti is an excellent choice to serve as the US ambassador to India.

"I strongly believe he will be even-keeled when it comes to ensuring that the US-India partnership will be the most consequential of the 21st century,” he said.

Khanderao Kand from the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies expressed happiness that after more than 600 days, the US would have an ambassador in India.

“This appointment is long due and important considering global strategic relations of the US-India and India’s G20 leadership,” he said.

Ronak Desai, a leading India practitioner at Paul Hastings and expert at Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute at Harvard University, said that the Senate vote confirming the president’s nominee to become ambassador to India demonstrates that the bipartisan consensus surrounding US-India relations remains firmly intact.

“Democrats and Republicans agree on remarkably little these days in Washington. The importance of maintaining strong US-India ties continues to be one of the rare exceptions. Bilateral ties have transcended partisanship and any individual party or person,” he said.

Eminent Indian-American community leader Ajay Bhutoria highlighted Garcetti's experience as the former Mayor of Los Angeles, where he built strong relationships with business leaders and political figures, as well as his work as a co-chair of the Biden-Harris campaign.

"I am thrilled to congratulate Eric Garcetti on his appointment as the Ambassador of India. His experience and leadership will be invaluable in strengthening the relationship between the United States and India. PTI LKJ NSA MRJ AKJ AKJ

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