Senate Foreign Relations Committee votes in favor of Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India


Nearly two years after his nomination was announced by the White House and facing numerous hurdles, Eric Garcetti may soon be on his way to New Delhi as the US Ambassador to India.

On March 8, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 13-8 to approve Garcetti’s nomination, setting up a vote by the full 100-member Senate. Two Republican senators voted with all 11 Democrats on the committee to clear Garcetti, who may get the full Senate’s approval with similar bipartisanship.

President Joe Biden nominated Garcetti, a former mayor of Los Angeles and once-rising star in the Democratic party, as ambassador to India in 2021. He had his confirmation hearing as well, but he never got a vote of the Senate committee as objections rose to his handling of a case of sexual harassment by his associate in Los Angeles.

The nomination stalled and was deemed returned to the White House, which, however, did not send it back or name a replacement in 2022. With the new Congress in place in January 2023, the White House re-sent the nomination.

But fresh trouble loomed. Republican senator Marco Rubio announced a hold on Garcetti’s nomination 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. An individual senator’s hold usually means an up-and-down vote of the full Senate would be needed.

This is possibly the longest period when America has not appointed an ambassador for India. Relations between the two countries are in an overdrive with President Biden putting the Quad front and center 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 efforts to strengthen India’s capacity to secure its borders, defend its sovereignty, and deter aggression”.

The delay in the appointment of the US ambassador to India, marked by the impasse over Garcetti’s nomination was weighing heavy on the Indian American business community and Senators alike.

Vish Mishra, Venture Director, Clearstone Venture Partners, a former president and trustee of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Silicon Valley, had spoken to indica about his concerns. “You never leave the ambassador’s spot vacant in any country with which you are candid and friendly,” he said. “We don’t have an ambassador spot vacant in Germany, France, England, or any other friendly country. But India is the exception. It’s been two years… why can’t you appoint an ambassador to India?”

Senator Mark Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, had minced no words on the issue: “It is an embarrassment that we say this is one of the most valuable relationships in the world, and yet we’ve not appointed an ambassador.”

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