President Joe Biden has nominated Los Angeles Mayor Eric Michael Garcetti to serve as the American ambassador to India. Indian American organizations welcomed the announcement, made Friday, July 9, calling it an opportunity for the Indian diaspora to work together to continue bridging US-India ties. Garcetti, 50, born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, has been mayor of Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the US, since 2013.Garcetti’s nomination has long been anticipated. He needs Senate confirmation to get the position. If he makes it, he will be the first sitting Los Angeles mayor to leave the position voluntarily in more than 100 years, according to the Los Angeles Times
Prior to his election to the Los Angeles City Council, Garcetti was a visiting instructor of international affairs at the University of Southern California, and an assistant professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College. His academic work focused on ethnic conflict and nationalism in Southeast Asia and Northeast Africa.
On accepting the nomination Garcetti posted a statement on the city’s website: “I love Los Angeles and will always be an Angeleno. I want you to know that every day I am your mayor, I will continue to lead this city like it is my first day on the job, with passion, focus, and determination. I have committed my life to service –– as an activist, as a teacher, as a naval officer, as a public servant and, if confirmed, next as an ambassador. Part of that commitment means that when your nation calls, you answer that call. And should I be confirmed, I’ll bring this same energy, commitment, and love for this city to my new role, and will forge partnerships and connections that will help Los Angeles.”
Welcoming Garcetti’s nomination MR Rangaswami, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur, investor, and founder of Indiaspora, stated in a press note, “We are excited that President Biden has nominated a reputed leader who has proven himself on several fronts. “It speaks volumes to the importance of the U.S.-India relationship that a close and trusted ally of President Biden may be America’s point person in Delhi.”
According to Sanjeev Joshipura, Indiaspora’s executive director, “Mayor Garcetti recognizes the importance of international cooperation and how to bring different actors together on the world stage.” Neil Makhija, executive director of IMPACT, another Indian American non-profit organization, said, “Ambassadorship to India is a critical position for strengthening ties between the world’s largest and the world’s oldest democracy, and President Biden has made an excellent choice in Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.” He added, “Mayor Garcetti’s credentials and national stature make him an excellent pick for the ambassadorship to India, a position that is critical to key American priorities like the global COVID-19 crisis, climate change, and immigration.
“As mayor, Eric Garcetti oversaw the vaccine deployment in the nation’s second-largest city, where over 50% of people over the age of 16 are now vaccinated. Garcetti understands the urgency and reality of addressing climate change, and is familiar with geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific region from his service in the US Navy.” The ongoing trade war between the two countries reached its lowest point in 2018 when India imposed tariffs on 28 products in retaliation to the U.S. government’s imposing of heavy tariffs on aluminum and steel from India. Earlier that year, the U.S. ended its generalized system of preferences for India, a program that allowed for duty-free exports of certain products.
Former President Donald Trump called India “the tariff king,” saying: “When we send a motorcycle to India, it’s a 100 percent tariff. When India sends a motorcycle to us, we brilliantly charge them nothing.” On defense, Rossow noted: “Mayor Garcetti will have a particularly steep learning curve to cover our defense relationship with India.” He referred to military exercises, finding a comfortable “strategic pathway,” pending defense sales, and the evolution of Quad, an initiative by the U.S., Japan, Australia and India to get Covid vaccines to the developing world. Garcetti’s close ties to Biden could accelerate Quad’s strategy, predicted Rossow.
The veteran India expert acknowledged that Garcetti presently has no relationship to India nor to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His views on contentious issues, such as India’s treatment of its minorities, or his position on statehood for Jammu and Kashmir are unknown. However, the two-term mayor serves on the executive committee of Human Rights Watch, which has been critical of the Modi government. Indiaspora founder MR Rangaswami cheered Biden’s announcement. “It is good for India to have an ambassador from the U.S., who is a Rhodes scholar and familiar with geopolitics.”