LA mayor Eric Garcetti, who once eyed US presidency, named ambassador to India

According to convention, the US Senate confirmations, a formality, take about two months or so. That would mean Garcetti can officially come to India after he is confirmed sometime in September.

Six months into the administration, US President Joe Biden has nominated Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as his country’s ambassador to India.

After the White House announcement, 50-year-old Garcetti, in a Twitter post, said: “Today, the President announced that I am his nominee to serve as U.S. Ambassador to India. I am honoured to accept his nomination to serve in this role… 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 strengthen Los Angeles’ place on the world stage,” he said.

According to convention, the US Senate confirmations, a formality, take about two months or so. That would mean Garcetti can officially come to India after he is confirmed sometime in September.

He will succeed Kenneth Juster who served as ambassador to India during the Trump administration. Early this week, Juster was appointed a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A co-chair of Biden’s election campaign, Garcetti is a key political ally of the President. It was expected he would be part of Biden’s cabinet, but a controversy around one of his aides is said to have scuttled his chances.

On January 9, 2020, Garcetti, who had briefly considered a Presidential run himself, endorsed Biden for the 2020 Democratic nomination. At the end of April last year, he was named on the vetting committee to select the presumptive Democratic nominee’s running mate.

In November, he was named a candidate for Secretary of Transportation in the Biden administration. There were protests in Los Angeles against the nomination, and Garcetti announced, without providing details, that he had turned down a position offered by President-elect Biden.

“As the administration reached out to me about serving, I let them know early this week that my city needs me now, and then I want to be here and that I need to be here,” Garcetti had said then.

He won re-election in March 2017. Under local law, he cannot run beyond two terms, and the election for his successor is scheduled in fall 2022.

Garcetti’s prospects for a Cabinet position were marred by a sexual harassment lawsuit against one of his former aides, Rick Jacobs, brought by a long-time bodyguard, Matthew Garza. The allegations received more attention after journalist Yashar Ali reported his own experience of being repeatedly and forcibly kissed by Jacobs when Ali was working in California politics. Ali alleged that Garcetti was aware of other instances of potential misconduct by Jacobs.

Indian diplomats told The Sunday Express that Biden’s choice was similar to that of President Barack Obama’s for the ambassador’s job in the first term, when he had appointed Congressman Tim Roemer to the position.

The tradition of making political appointments to the post of ambassador to India has been bipartisan, and signals that the White House calls the shots in ambassadorial appointments in countries where the US has vital stakes. Neither Richard Verma, who was appointed by the Obama administration, nor Kenneth Juster, who was appointed by President Trump, were career diplomats.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Garcetti has travelled several times to India, most recently as a councilman. While in college, he spent a year studying Hindi and Urdu, and during at least one visit stayed at the ambassador’s residence.

“It’s the largest democracy in the world, soon to be the most populous country in the world, one of the top handful of superpowers in the world,” Garcetti told LA Times Saturday.

As Mayor, he oversees the busiest container port in the western hemisphere, the largest municipal utility in the country, and one of the busiest airports in the world. He led LA’s successful bid to return the summer Olympic Games to American soil for the first time in three decades.

He currently chairs LA Metro, the country’s second-busiest transit agency, which is building or extending 15 new transit lines, and shifting to an all-electric fleet.

Garcetti co-founded Climate Mayors and led more than 400 US mayors to adopt the Paris Climate agreement.

He is the current Chair of C40 Cities, a network of 97 of the world’s biggest cities taking bold climate action, and has led the organisation’s engagement and expansion in India as well.

In 12 years as an intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve Component, Garcetti served under the Commander, US Pacific Fleet and the Defence Intelligence Agency, retiring in 2017 as a Lieutenant.

A Rhodes Scholar, he studied at Queen’s College, Oxford and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Garcetti was selected as an inaugural Asia 21 Fellow of the Asia Society, and taught at Occidental College’s Department of Diplomacy and World Affairs, and at the University of Southern California’s School of International Relations.

“He has lived and conducted field work on nationalism, ethnicity, and human rights in Southeast Asia and Northeast Africa. He is the founding Chair of the Latino Alliance of Mayors at the US Conference of Mayors, serves on the Board of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, and speaks fluent Spanish,” the White House said.

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