New Delhi: India on Thursday, March 16, welcomed the senate confirmation of Eric Garcetti as the new US ambassador to India, even as the Ministry of External Affairs refused to comment on his year-old statement on human rights advocacy directly.
“So let me emphasise that we welcome the confirmation of Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India. Look forward to working with him to take forward our multifaceted relations,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi at the weekly media briefing on Thursday.
Earlier on Wednesday, the US senate approved the nomination of Garcetti, a close political ally of President Joe Biden and former Los Angeles mayor, 26 months after he had been initially proposed.
Garcetti’s nomination had been stalled over questions raised by some senators that he had overlooked the allegations of sexual misconduct of his top mayoral aide. He had strenuously denied these complaints and claimed not to know about the allegations.
The US Senate had confirmed Garcetti with 52 votes in favour and 42 against, with six senators not voting. The ‘aye’ votes included seven Republicans, while three Democrats voted against the nomination.
After the successful Senate vote, Garcetti said he was “thrilled” with the “decisive and bipartisan decision to fill a critical post that has been vacant for far too long”.
“I’m deeply grateful to President Biden and the White House for the confidence and support throughout this process, and to all senators on both sides of the aisle – whether they voted for me or not – for their thoughtful consideration. I’m ready and eager to begin my service representing our critical interests in India,” he said, according to ANI.
During his December 2021 testimony to the Senate, Garcetti said in his written remarks that “human rights and strong democratic institutions are key elements of our strategic partnership and values enshrined in our constitutions, and if confirmed, I will engage closely and regularly with the Indian government on these issues”.
In answer to questions during the hearing, Garcetti had said that he would bring up human rights and discrimination via the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) as a “core” part of his engagement, rather than a mere obligation. “There are groups that are actively fighting for human rights of people on the ground in India that will get direct engagement from me.”
These remarks triggered an adverse reaction from some groups, with the clip of his words circulating across social media ahead of the vote.
When asked to react to Garcetti’s remarks on human rights, Bagchi said, “I am not aware of any recent comment of ambassador designate Garcetti on this issue. There is something on social media, which is very old… Our position on many of these issues are well known”.
A day before the Senate vote, the political advocacy group of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America had called on voters to write to their senators to reject Garcetti’s nomination as his “untruthful, sanctimonious, and undiplomatic attitude and interference in India’s internal affairs will alienate a majority of Indians and cause severe harm to the US-India relations”.