Wednesday, March 29, 2023
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2 years on, India to finally have full-time US envoy as Senate confirms Biden pick Garcetti

Former LA mayor Eric Garcetti's nomination was stalled for months due to allegations that he was aware of but didn't take action against former aide accused of sexual harassment & bullying.

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New Delhi: The nomination of Eric Garcetti, the man tapped by US President Joe Biden as  ambassador to India, was confirmed by the US Senate Wednesday.

This comes after over two years of the US embassy in New Delhi not having a full-time envoy — the longest-ever vacancy in the history of India-US ties.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved Garcetti’s nomination 13:8, sending the vote to the full Senate as the last leg of the process.

Officially nominated in July 2021, Garcetti has seen his nomination stalled in the Senate for months due to allegations that he was aware but did not take action against one of his former aides accused of sexual harassment and bullying. The former LA mayor, however, has repeatedly denied these claims. 

The last US ambassador to sit in the embassy in New Delhi was Kenneth Juster, who left the post in January 2021. Since Juster left following Biden assuming office, Washington has posted six Chargé d’Affaires (CDAs) in its mission in Delhi — Don Heflin, Edgard Kagan, Daniel Smith, Atul Keshap, Patricia A. Lacina and Elizabeth Jones.

Experts have previously pointed out that the record vacancy comes at a time when India-US relations are reaching their “most critical phase”, and, from America’s perspective, a long-term view of the strategic relationship was needed.

Data compiled by think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) shows US ambassadors to India have usually taken office within 6 to 7 months of the departure of their predecessors.

Also, an analysis by ThePrint last December based on data from the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) — the professional association of the US Foreign Service — showed that, at the time, 20 US ambassadorial nominees were awaiting confirmation from the Senate, yet Garcetti’s case had been pending the longest. 

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Biden’s backing & whistleblower’s claims 

Tensions ran high in the run-up to last week’s vote in the Senate.

Naomi Seligman, Garcetti’s former communications director in the LA Mayor office, who claimed he turned a blind eye to sexual harassment in the workplace, spoke to various media outlets urging against the confirmation of his nomination. 

In an interview Monday to CNN, Seligman said: “He is unfit to become an ambassador or really to hold public office anywhere in this country or this world.”

Garcetti’s former aide Rick Jacobs was the staffer accused of sexual harassment and the case was first filed by journalist Yashar Ali, drawing much national attention.

Republicans as well as some members of Garcetti’s own party, the Democratic Party, have opposed his nomination due to the allegations of sexual misconduct.

Despite the claims, the Biden administration has on many occasions reiterated its support for his nomination. 

In the most recent case following the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s approval of the nomination, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: “It would be in the interests of both of our people to have a confirmed Ambassador in place. We hope that the mayor and soon-to-be Ambassador Eric Garcetti is able to take up that post before long.”

A hold was placed on Garcetti’s nomination, mainly by Republican Senators, which is why he could not be confirmed by the last Congress. However, Biden renominated him to the same position in January this year.

Garcetti is known to be a “trusted political ally” of Biden, and also served as the co-chair of his 2020 presidential campaign. At one point, he was considered for Biden’s cabinet.

(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)

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