On Wednesday, the United States Senate voted 52-42 in favor of confirming President Joe Biden's nominee for ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti.
Garcetti, who served as mayor of Los Angeles from 2013 until his term was up last year, knows Biden well and served as co-chair of his 2020 presidential campaign.
Washington had been without an ambassador in India for 26 months, the longest period in the history of US-India relations. Kenneth Juster, the United States' last ambassador to India, retired on January 20, 2021.
In July 2021, Biden nominated Garcetti for the position; however, his confirmation was postponed due to concerns about how he handled accusations against Rick Jacobs, a friend and senior adviser who was accused of sexual harassment at City Hall while the then-mayor was in office.
Three Democrats abstained from voting yes, but Biden managed to win over enough Republicans, some of whom justified their votes by arguing that the diplomatic position with India is too crucial to be left unfilled any longer. The phrase "national security imperative" was used once.
As China asserts itself in the Indo-Pacific area, Biden is eager to strengthen ties with India as part of his campaign to triumph in what he has framed as a contest between free and authoritarian societies.
"The United States-India relationship is extremely important and it's a very good thing we now have an ambassador," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who led a congressional delegation to India last month.
Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for India's external ministry, told reporters at a conference on Thursday, “We look forward to working with him to take forward our multifaceted bilateral relations."
The US-India Business Council of the US Chamber of Commerce wished Garcetti luck when he assumed the position left vacant by Kenneth Juster in 2021. Garcetti’s confirmation according to the council's Delhi-based deputy managing director Shreerupa Mitra, will help the United States and India “achieve critical goals in decarbonization, human development, and economic resilience.”
In 2022, Biden visited with Modi twice, enhancing trade ties between the two nations and the regional Quad security dialogue with Japan and Australia. As a result, the US and India's relations saw considerable improvement. Garcetti is expected to prioritize this blossoming partnership.
However, Garcetti may face challenges in his new position given that comments he has made in the past have received criticism from some Indians. In response to a query regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act, which the Indian parliament approved in 2019, Garcetti stated he would "actively raise" human rights issues in New Delhi during his confirmation hearings in 2021.
The law gives immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh a chance to apply for Indian citizenship—but only if they are Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, or Buddhist. The law is a cornerstone and campaign promise of the ruling Hindutva Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is also the country's largest political party.
The spokesperson for India's external affairs ministry, Bagchi, responded that he was unaware of any new comments made by the diplomat-designate on Garcetti's views on human rights. “There is something on social media, which is very old,” he said. “Our position on many of these issues are well-known.”
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