Eric Garcetti Is Being Just The Ambassador He Said He Would Be
WASHINGTON, DC (IANS) – Eric Garcetti was very clear from the very start what kind of ambassador he will be in India: someone who will not hesitate to rise to the defense of human rights and democracy.
And that’s what he did recently when asked about the situation in Manipur, although he did in the end cover his flanks well, saying India is for Indians to determine.
Garcetti is a politician, and his last job was as Mayor of Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the US. And unlike a professional diplomat, he may cross lines that may not always endear him to his hosts.
As a gentle reminder of where his Manipur remarks came from, here is what he said at his confirmation hearing in December 2021: “There’s no question that the US-India relationship should be underpinned by our common commitment to democracy, to human rights and to civil society. It’s enshrined in our constitutions, the oldest democracy in the world and the largest democracy in the world.”
“And human rights and defense of democracy is a pillar of our foreign policy, but to answer specifically, if confirmed, I will actively raise these issues. I’ll raise them with humility. It’s a two-way street on these.”
That’s exactly what Garcetti did when asked about the situation in Manipur. He did not offer a diplomat’s non-answer answer. He took it on: “I don’t think it’s about strategic concerns. I think it’s about human concerns. I think all of us. You don’t have to be Indian to care when children or individuals die in the sort of violence that we see.”
But he added, “We know this is an Indian matter… India is for Indians to determine its pathway.”
Ambassador Garcetti may have seen a drop in his popularity in India as a result, but he is unlikely to duck if faced with a similar question again.
Garcetti is not known to give up — or in — easily. Nominated as US ambassador by President Joe Biden in July 2021, he waited six months for his confirmation hearing, which took place in December. And waited patiently to be confirmed.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and months turned into a year. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose approval is needed for all State Department positions of a certain seniority, just sat on it and finally returned it to the White House.
Garcetti never gave up. He did not withdraw his nomination as some nominees have had to do with their backs to the wall. And the Biden and White House also stuck by him.
It sent it back to the Senate in January, when the new Congress began its term. He was finally cleared in March, almost two years after being nominated.
People who were in touch with him in that period says he never gave up and remained just as excited about the assignment as on the first day.
“He was very excited about the assignment and was not deterred at all by the protracted confirmation process he faced,” said M.R. Rangaswami, founder of in diaspora who has met the ambassador a few times and gotten to know him.
He added: “As a politician and former Mayor of the second largest city in the US, he knows exactly what to do and when.”
Ambassador Garcetti has spoken of the relationship in lofty terms in the many appearances he had made at public events in Washington D.C.
“We need to look at this as a relationship of equals and a relationship that folks who share values together,” Garcetti said at one of them, adding, “And I promise you that is the spirit that I bring.”