Former US mayor Garcetti advances in India ambassador bid

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Former Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti finally moved forward Wednesday in his bid to become US ambassador to India, a position vacant for more than two years despite US efforts to build ties with New Delhi.

Garcetti was nominated by President Joe Biden in 2021, while he was still leading the second largest US city, but the nomination stalled over criticism of the mayor’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against an aide.

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Two Republicans joined Democrats at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to send his nomination to the full Senate, where he likely has the votes for confirmation but still may be blocked by individual senators.

Unlike in most countries, ambassadors in the United States require consent by the Senate, often leading to lengthy delays although Garcetti’s nomination has been stalled for unusually long.

“Simply put, the United States needs a confirmed ambassador in India,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters after the committee vote.

“There is no other country around the world that would put itself in a position to have a vacancy open in a strategically important and valuable place like India for two-plus years,” Price said.

Garcetti has spoken of a lifelong interest in India which blossomed after a visit as a university student that prompted him to study Hindi and Urdu.

Garcetti, who was barred from seeking a third term as mayor, had once been seen as a rising star in Democratic Party politics and flirted with a presidential run.

But his legacy was marred by allegations that he knew and did not act after his former chief of staff made unwanted sexual advances on a number of people around him.

One of the Republicans who voted for Garcetti, Bill Hagerty, is a former ambassador to Japan who agreed it was crucial to have a full-ranking envoy to New Delhi.

Biden, like his four predecessors across party lines, has put a priority on advancing relations with India, seeing the fellow democracy as a key partner as China rises.

India, however, has refused to join US efforts to punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

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