Observing that India is situated in a “tough neighbourhood”, US President Joe Biden’s nominee for next envoy to New Delhi on Tuesday told lawmakers that he will double-down on America’s efforts to strengthen India’s capacity to “secure its borders, defend its sovereignty and deter aggression”.
Eric Michael Garcetti, 50, is currently serving as the Mayor of Los Angeles and is a personal confidant of Biden.
During his confirmation hearing for US Ambassador to India, Garcetti said, “India is situated in a tough neighbourhood. If confirmed, I intend to double-down on our efforts to strengthen India’s capacity to secure its borders, defend its sovereignty and deter aggression.”
Garcetti said he will make the efforts “through information sharing, counterterrorism coordination, joint freedom of navigation patrols and military exercises (which I have participated in as a naval officer alongside my Indian counterparts), and sales of our best defence technologies in order to realise the full potential of our major defence partnership.”
He said if confirmed, he will work closely with India to support a similarly bold approach to promoting green energy through the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and through the Agenda 2030 Climate and Clean Energy Partnership.
“The bedrock of our partnership are the human ties that connect our nations, embodied by the four million strong Indian-American diaspora that strengthens our nation and the nearly two hundred thousand Indian students and tens of thousands of Indian professionals who contribute to our economy,” Garcetti said
“In addition, respect for 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,” he said.
The Los Angeles Mayor said in 1992, the year he graduated from college after studying Hindi and Indian cultural and religious history, US-India ties languished in the shadow of Cold War era mistrust. Annual trade stood at a paltry USD 2 billion, defence trade was zero and military interoperability was non-existent. The very idea of a US-India strategic partnership would have been deemed laughable.
“Today, the fundamental nature of that strategic partnership is firmly ingrained in both Washington and New Delhi. Twenty years ago President Biden, then Chairman of this esteemed committee, called for a new and ambitious vision of US-India ties. Thanks to successive administrations — Democratic and Republican — and the bipartisan work of this Congress, that strong new chapter is upon us,” he said.
“Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, bilateral trade is expected to reach new heights and if confirmed, I intend to champion an ambitious economic partnership with India that reduces market access barriers and bolsters fair trade and creates good jobs for the American middle class,” Garcetti said.