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Why A Garcetti Assignment To India Is Considered A Critical One

Then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, wearing a sports jacket and an open collared shirt, campaigning at a King Taco restaurant in Los Angeles with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is wearing a tie but no jacket. They are both gesturing with their left hands.
Then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden campaigned in Los Angeles with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
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The nomination of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcett to be U.S. Ambassador to India is President Biden’s reward for years of support from the younger politician, but also a show of confidence in his diplomatic abilities.

That’s according to Kal Raustiala, who directs UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations. The ambassadorship to India is considered one of the most critical in the diplomatic corps, given the subcontinent’s growing clout on the world stage and its role as a counterweight to China in the region.

“India is the other giant Asian country that also happens to be a democracy, and one where there's a lot of potential ties for the United States, but those ties haven't been fully developed in the ways that I think some hope,” Raustiala said.

Pairing Garcetti with India may not have seemed like an intuitive choice, but Raustiala said the mayor has a reputation for being a quick learner who has an international affairs background and taught as an adjunct assistant professor at Occidental College in the late 1990s.

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Not An Easy Assignment

Serving as ambassador to India, with its president who is seen by critics as authoritarian, is a harder assignment than, say, the United Kingdom or France. But Raustiala anticipates that Garcetti would be well received by an Indian government and people who have a great deal of interest in the U.S. and also have many ties to the Indian diaspora here. Indian Americans are one of the largest and fastest-growing Asian American groups in the country.

Much of Garcetti’s job would be ceremonial. "The real issue is going to be, what are the unexpected things that happen in a relationship between two countries of that size and when there's a crisis,” Raustiala said. “That's when ambassadors often end up playing some role in mediating or something of that nature.”

A confirmation hearing has not been scheduled yet and may be weeks or months away, given that Congress is soon headed into August recess. Garcetti would be confirmed if the vote is down party lines, although it’s expected Republicans will grill him on controversies in his administration, including sexual harassment allegations against a former top aide and Garcetti’s inability to quell L.A.’s homelessness crisis.