Senate confirms Eric Garcetti as next Ambassador to India

Eric Garcetti. Photo: Twitter @ericgarcetti

The Senate, on March 15, 2023, confirmed former Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti in a 52– 42 bipartisan vote, as the next US Ambassador to India. The confirmation comes two years into the Biden administration, leaving a key ally without the top official needed to steer diplomatic relations.

“I’m thrilled with today’s outcome, which was a decisive & bipartisan decision to fill a critical post that was been vacant for long. I’m grateful to President Biden & White House. I’m ready & eager to begin my service representing our critical interests in India: Eric Garcetti,” a tweet on ANI quoted the new Ambassador to India saying.

Commenting on the confirmation, White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, Rear Admiral John Kirby, told News India Times at the White House, on March 15, “We’re absolutely delighted that the Senate confirmed Mr. Garcetti to be our next Ambassador to India.  I know he’s very excited about this opportunity and advancing our foreign policy interests throughout South Asia, certainly in India.  We’re eager to get them on the ground.”

Garcetti’s appointment comes after significant developments on the world stage that saw New Delhi and Washington negotiating complex differences on issues ranging from the Indo-Paific security to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and climate change, to a cooperated  response on food insecurity and Covid. Meanwhile, trade and defense relations grew stronger. The period witnessed a more nuanced response from the Biden administration toward India, a deeper and more parsed understanding of New Delhi’s compulsions and positions on the foreign policy front.

A bipartisan vote catapulted Garcetti’s nomination in the full Senate as 7 Republicans swung behind him. They included South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Todd Young of Indiana, Steve Daines of Montana, and Roger Marshall of Kansas. On the Democratic site, three Senators opposed Garcetti’s appointment, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Mark Kelly of Arizona.

Brown, seen as an old India-friend, opposed Garcetti on grounds he was not adequately qualified. “I think there are better nominees that had more experience and expertise in a country set to be the biggest democracy in the world, so I just thought we could have done better,” Brown is quoted saying in a CNN report. Meanwhile, Garcetti’s in his hearings has talked of engaging India in human rights issues that could add a crinkle to the otherwise relatively smooth tapestry of relations.

“The United States-India relationship is extremely important and it’s a very good thing we now have an ambassador,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is quoted saying in The Washington Post following the confirmation vote.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton in a statement said, “President Biden believes that we have a crucial and consequential partnership with India and that Mayor Garcetti will make a strong and effective Ambassador.  The President thanks Chairman Menendez and Senators on both sides of the aisle for their thorough consideration and for today’s bipartisan vote to confirm Mayor Garcetti.”

Congressman Ami Bera, D-California, tweeted following the Garcetti vote, “As the longest-serving Indian American Member of Congress and Ranking Member of the@HouseForeign Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific, I look forward to working with Ambassador Garcetti to continue advancing a robust and growing U.S.-India partnership.”

President & CEO of US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, Mukesh Aghi, told News India Times on March 15, “Eric will be a good asset as an ambassador for both countries. With his experience of being mayor of LA and his previous experience in India, he brings both emotional and intellectual capacity to this relationship. His direct contact with President Biden brings a lot of decision-making to a quicker process than it would take.” Applauding the Senate’s decision for having confirmed Garcetti, and that he looks forward to the collaboration, Aghi added, “Eric is a big thinker, and he strongly believes that the relationship between India and the US is the most consequential for this century.”

Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voted 13-8  to advance Garcetti’s  nomination sending it to the full Senate for the confirmation. After Garcetti received votes from two Republican Senators Todd Young and Bill Hagerty in favor of his confirmation Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “He got two Republican votes today. I would think that he would find a pathway forward on the floor to be supported” adding “Assume that it’s just a question of getting him time on the floor. Nominations take up time when they have to be voted out through the whole process.”

President Joe Biden re-nominated Garcetti, on January 3, 2023, for the post with the expectation that the 51-49 Democratic majority in the new Senate will confirm him. “As Secretary Blinken said very recently, our relationship with India is crucial… so we see this as a very important nomination,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Garcetti’s renomination with the hope that the full Senate will confirm quickly.

Garcetti was initially nominated by President Biden in July 2021, a few months after he took office in January. Since then Garcetti’s nomination has stalled in the Senate. Many Senators in the Democratic Party had privately expressed concerns over Garcetti lack of awareness of the sexual assault allegations against his top adviser, Rick Jacobs. Concerns from the Republican party initiated by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), led the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to stall the process. Shortly after, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also supported Grassley, whose office went further to initiate an investigation into the allegations.

 “Several individuals told investigators that Mayor Garcetti was aware of this behavior, and based on the reported frequency and conspicuous nature of the conduct, it is more likely than not that Mayor Garcetti either had personal knowledge of the sexual harassment or should have been aware of it,” noted a May 10th staff review from Grassley’s office.

On December 13, Grassley, in a Senate Floor Statement said, “I’d like to express my strong opposition to the nomination of Eric Garcetti to be Ambassador to the Republic of India. I’m compelled to vote against Mayor Garcetti due to the serious allegations that he enabled sexual harassment and racism to run rampant in the Los Angeles Mayor’s office.”

In December 2021, when Garcetti had his first Senate hearing at the Foreign Relations Committee, he said he had studied Hindi and Indian cultural and religious history in college, the text of his testimony shows. In the early 1990s, Garcetti said, ties between the two countries were nowhere near what they are now, had languished and a ‘strategic’ partnership was not on the cards, and “would have been deemed laughable.” (

Now there was a sea change Garcetti emphasized at the hearing.

“The bedrock of our partnership are the human ties that connect our nations, embodied by the 4 million strong Indian American diaspora that strengthens our nation and the nearly 200,000 Indian students and tens of thousands of Indian professionals who contribute to our economy,” he said in December 2021. “In addition, respect for human rights and strong democratic institutions are key elements of our strategic partnership and values enshrined in our constitutions, and if confirmed, I will engage closely and regularly with the Indian government on these issues.”

Raised in San Fernando Valley, Garcetti got his Bachelors and Masters degrees from Columbia University, and taught at Occidental College and the University of Southern California. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and at the London School of Economics. He has a young daughter, Maya Juanita with his wife Amy Wakeland.



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