After more than two years, the US finally has an ambassador to India – Eric Garcetti. On Wednesday, after a tortuous and prolonged process, the United States Senate confirmed Eric Garcetti as the next ambassador to India.
For two years, since January 2021, the US has not had an ambassador in New Delhi. It is the longest period of diplomatic vacuum at the level of the envoy from the American end ever since the two countries established diplomatic relations.
Garcetti is a close aide of President Biden, he also co-chaired his 2020 presidential campaign, and the former mayor of Los Angeles. Kenneth Juster was the last envoy to India, who eventually stepped down in January 2021 after the regime change in the United States of America. The Senate voted 52-42 to confirm the nomination of the 52-year-old Garcetti.
Garcetti has become the Envoy at such a critical juncture where the relationship between India and the United States continues to deepen. India is not only the world’s largest democracy but also a major trading and strategic partner for the US. There are an estimated 2.7 million Indian immigrants living in the United States.
It is said that President Biden, to whom Garcetti is close, remains very eager to deepen relationship with India in what he has termed as a contest between free and autocratic societies. Garcetti’s appointment assumes significance for India in light of the remarks he made in December 2021 when he was a nominee for the post.
Garcetti is critical on CAA and Human Rights Issues
Garcetti has taken the reigns at such a time when geopolitics and strategic relations have been shaped by the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war and several other factors, which caused lot of differences between India and USA.
A look back at his appearance in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2021 is a window into Garcetti’s mind and perception of India. Unfortunately, he carries the mantle of continuity with regard to the West’s sanctimony on democracy and values when looking at other nations, especially India.
In 2021, when Garcetti appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he made contentious remarks about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in India. On being asked about how he would deal with the ‘human rights situation’ in India, Eric Garcetti said, “I intend to engage directly with civil society. There are groups that are actively fighting for human rights…They will get direct engagement from me.”
“These will not just be afterthoughts for me…I have fought for human rights on 4 different continents and will be a core part of what I will pursue with my Indian counterpart,” he had said then.
On being asked if the Citizenship Amendment Act will “discriminate” against the Muslim population in India, Eric said, “I will not only just bring it up, but it will not be something in the end as an obligation. It will be a core piece of what I will be engaging my Indian counterparts with…”
He is Pro-China
Garcetti made some interesting remarks in 2016 when he was mayor of Los Angeles, the US’ second-largest city. According to China Daily, Garcetti said he was ‘proud’ of the fact that the Chinese became the top overseas visitors.
Garcetti, who was pushing for Chinese investment during his time at the helm added “friendship transcends business” and that “deals are numbers that can be translated into relationships.”
“A deal is made when two people trust each other, like each other, respect each other enough to make sure they are going to do business for the next number of years,” Garcetti told the outlet.
As per an investigation conducted by Daily Caller News Foundation, Garcetti has met with members belonging to several Chinese Communist Party (CCP) front groups. These groups include the United Front Work Department (UFWD), the China Overseas Exchange Association (COEA) and the China Overseas Friendship Association (COFA).
The Daily Caller reported that Eric Garcetti received $2,00,000 (₹1.65 crores) from the Walter and Shirley Wang Charitable Foundation in July 2014 and $1,000,000 (₹8.25 crores) in 2020 to his ‘Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles’ (which was set up in 2014).
Walter Wang also donated $1,400 (₹1.15 lakhs) to the 2017 mayoral reelection campaign of Eric Garcetti. Interestingly, Wang has served as the Executive Director of CCP front groups including COEA and COFA.
Sexual harassment allegations against him
Prior to his nomination for the position of US ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti was accused of being a mute spectator to sexual harassment committed by his top aide and advisor Rick Jacobs. In July 2020, Los Angeles Police Department veteran named Matthew Garza filed a lawsuit about Garcetti being a witness to Jacobs’ routine sexual harassment of him and still not doing anything about it.
“Mayor Garcetti was present on many, if not most of the occasions when Jacobs made sexually inappropriate comments, but the Mayor took no action to stop the comments from being made or even identify the comments as being inappropriate,” he said in his complaint.
“On some occasions, the Mayor would laugh at Jacobs’ crude comments,” the victim had lamented. Journalist Yashar Ali, who too has been a victim of Jacobs’ advances, pointed out that other victims were also harassed in front of Eric Garcetti but he took no action against his confidante.
He is certainly a BIG WORRY for India
Amid such a critical times, his appointment raises many eyebrows. His anti Indian stances on some policy specific issues made him a questionable choice for such an important position, which was left vacant for more than 2 years. India has recently saw barrage of attacks from entities of foreign origins, and there is high probability of further increase in such attacks past his appointment, as he has openly supported anti Indian thoughts in the name of Human Rights and opposed CAA act.
although, Indian Government has welcomed this move, but in our opinion, the Modi government must keep a close eye on his actions in Delhi. Only 1 year is left for the 2024 elections, and any small controversy can make the dynamics changed in Indian politics.