After 26 months, Roosevelt House in New Delhi, the official residence of the United States (US) envoy to India, is finally set to get a rightful occupant. Former Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti won the confirmation of his nomination from a divided Senate as the nation’s next ambassador to India, more than a year-and-a-half after he was first nominated by President Joe Biden in a process dogged by allegations of a sexual harassment scandal involving a former adviser. The 52-42 vote gave the Democratic administration a long-sought victory as several Republicans joined their counterparts in underlining how important it was for Washington to fill one of the country’s highest-profile diplomatic posts. The victory brings the curtain down on the longest period Washington has not had an envoy in New Delhi, and has made do on a string of ad-hoc appointments made to fill the diplomatic vacuum created by the partisan dysfunction in the US Congress.
This is good news. The relationship between the US and India is deepening and expanding, but at a time of great global churn — one that requires deft and careful handling of everyday sensitivities and interests. It is to the credit of the leadership of both countries that they didn’t allow the relationship to be derailed by the pressures and disturbances of the Ukraine war, but a number of initiatives unveiled over the past year — ranging from Quad to the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies — need more attention that can only be provided by a full-time ambassador engaging with India’s top leadership and relaying the feedback back home.
Mr Garcetti’s close ties to the White House — he was part of Mr Biden’s inner circle during the 2020 presidential elections and is considered to have played a key role in picking his running mate, vice-president Kamala Harris — are likely to help him steer away from avoidable controversies that have sometimes shadowed the bilateral relationship. The appointment of a full-time ambassador is also an important signal, not only to the political leadership but also to the business community and the industry at a time both governments are hoping to step up cooperation in a host of new areas, such as cutting-edge technology sharing and scientific alignment. As India attempts to navigate Great Power rivalry in its stint as the G20 president, having a direct line with a solid ally will only help.
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