There is a new diplomat on the block. Eric Garcetti was finally sworn in as the American ambassador to India by Vice President Kamala Harris last week.
It has been a two-year long wait for the mission in India for an ambassador. While President Joe Biden had nominated Garcetti, his appointment has been pending at US Congress since July 2021. "As he prepares to depart for India, we discussed some immediate priorities in deepening the bilateral partnership, in line with our Leaders’ vision. Look forward to working with Eric," tweeted Indian ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu.
Garcetti comes in the midst of a year of hectic diplomatic activity of G20. The vacancy—in a country that America has deep engagement with—has become a gap in the relationship. And one that Garcetti will work hard to fulfil. “It feels great. Can’t wait to serve,” Garcetti, has been quoted as saying in news reports when asked about new posting. “I’m so honoured the vice president did this," he said.
The appointment also comes at a crucial time in the relations between the two countries. There has been closer cooperation with the Quad. On his agenda, as soon as he takes charge, will be a big visit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to travel to the US in summer—in a year before elections—the expectations for the visit in terms will be high.
It is no secret that America would prefer India to take a stronger stand against Russia in the Ukraine conflict. So far India has chosen to walk the tight-rope of balance between the two countries. But with the US relations with China still frosty—especially after the spy balloon episode—and the growing warmth of the dragon with Russia too, the two countries are likely to gravitate closer. The recent visit of President Xi Jinping to Moscow where Putin toasted to “deepening of the Russian-Chinese partnership” will certainly make New Delhi uncomfortable.
India seems to be the flavour of the season. The new Foreign Relations Committee too is pushing for closer engagement with India. The mandate of the Committee is to “review US policy towards India and the continued expansion of bilateral cooperation,’’ the House Foreign Affairs Committee document stated. The committee will pay special attention to “the US-India defence relationship, including security and technology cooperation, opportunities for expanded roles, missions, and capabilities, and counterterrorism efforts,” according to the document.
“The Committee will also focus on efforts to enhance US-India economic relations, including discussions surrounding bilateral efforts in the technology, telecommunications, and pharmaceutical industries,” it said.