Eric Garcetti’s path as U.S. Ambassador to Delhi hits another roadblock

Eric Garcetti’s path as U.S. Ambassador to Delhi hits another roadblock

Republican Senator places another hold on Garcetti’s nomination, just ahead of Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s vote

U.S. President Joseph Biden’s nominee for Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, received yet another a setback as a senior Republican Senator placed a hold on his confirmation, calling it one of several “questionable” nominations. Senator Marco Rubio also placed a hold on six other nominations, including that of former U.S. Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, just days away from a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday. While the Committee hearing could still go forward, the confirmation process of Mr. Garcetti, Mr. Verma and others would have to be delayed indefinitely until the issue is resolved.

“One of these nominees has ignored credible sexual assault accusations in his prior office,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement, referring to allegations that Mr. Garcetti had not taken credible action against the Deputy Chief of Staff in his Los Angeles Mayoral office despite serious accusations of sexual harrassment. “I will not turn a blind eye to these absurd nominations, which will hasten America’s decline,” Mr. Rubio added.

Mr. Garcetti’s nomination, which was originally made in 2021, was stuck over the same charges before as well, and Republican Senators, including Mr. Rubio have opposed it in the past.

As The Hindu had reported earlier this week, Mr. Garcetti’s hearing had been seen as a renewed push by the U.S. administration to fill the Ambassadorial post in New Delhi, which has been vacant for a record two years. After Mr. Garcetti’s previous nomination lapsed with the previous U.S. Congress, Mr. Biden re-nominated the former Los Angeles Mayor, a close friend and associate, rather than send a new name for confirmation.

The move to re-nominate Mr. Garcetti appeared to indicate that the Biden administration was confident of pushing through the appointment this time, particularly as the Democratic party wrested control of the Senate in the November 2022 elections. However, the number of challenges to Mr. Garcetti’s nomination, with even members of his own party reportedly unwilling to support the nomination, has raised questions in New Delhi over whether a U.S. Ambassador will be in place this year at all. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to meet the American President a number of times this year, including a possible State visit to Washington and the G-20 summit in Delhi.

“We have little choice but to wait for the U.S. processes to play out… Having said that, it would be good to have a U.S. Ambassador here at the earliest, especially in this important year,“ Navtej Sarna, former Indian Ambassador to the U.S., said.

Analysts have also pointed out that even if Mr. Garcetti were to win a confirmation now, his tenure in New Delhi would be relatively short and uncertain, given that U.S. elections are in November 2024. So far, the position here has been filled by at least six interim envoys in succession, with retired foreign service officer Elizabeth Jones sent to New Delhi as Charge d’Affaires Ad Interim (Acting Ambassador) in November 2022.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairperson Robert Menendez’s decision on whether to go ahead with Tuesday’s meeting to vote Mr. Garcetti out of the committee despite the hold.

Along with Mr. Garcetti and Mr. Verma, who has been nominated as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, Mr. Rubio placed a hold on the nominations of Michael Ratney, a careers foreign service officer nominated as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Geeta Rao Gupta, nominated as Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues; and three nominees to various international development banks for various different reasons, including ties to China and Cuba, lack of experience, and views on abortion.

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