Like Godot, India Waiting for US Ambassador

3 Min
Like Godot, India Waiting for US Ambassador

Atul Cowshish

The script for appointing US ambassador to India was written over two years ago by President Joe Biden but India’s wait for the arrival of Eric Garcetti appears like the Samuel Becket play ‘Waiting for Godot’. Uncertain! However, there was excitement in the Indian media when a few days ago it transpired that the appointment of the former Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti as the American plenipotentiary in New Delhi reached the semi-final stage—just a step away; confirmation by the US Senate .

it will remain unclear to many why the Joe Biden administration insisted that Garcetti alone would be the next ambassador in India. He may have been a valuable friend of the current US President but what is so special about him that makes him indispensable for the job of the American envoy in New Delhi? His India connection that can be imagined is rather far-fetched: He reportedly played a key role in making Kamala Harris the running mate of Joe Biden.

Other than that not much is known, at least in India, about anything that binds him to India. Is he a scholar of Indian affairs? Did he as the city’s Mayor do anything special for the Indian or India-origin community in America’s second largest city, Los Angeles?

A wait for more than two years without the appointment of a US ambassador in India looks like a snub, more so when the US has been quite prompt in filling diplomatic posts in the rest of South Asia and China. And we have been made to believe all along that the US considers India a key strategic partner who is being encouraged to challenge China!

It is, of course, a different matter that India under a ’56-inch chest’ ruler has shown little appetite for taking on the challenge: The Indian prime minister does not even like to mention the name of China and has publicly denied that China has intruded into any Indian territory.      

The more optimistic in India have said that the top vacancy at the Roosevelt House (US embassy) will be finally filled in a matter of days when the US Senate is expected to endorse his appointment following clearance by the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Even if the last hurdle is cleared over the next few days or weeks, another problem seems to have appeared, this time on the Indian horizon.

Garcetti’s appointment was stuck because of an allegation that he did not take action against a senior aide of his who was accused of sexual harassment. Whether the charges were true or false is a matter best left to the Americans. It is perhaps also for the Americans to ponder whether the choice for taking up a key position in India should be confined to one person.

The US Senate may well give the green signal to his appointment in India but some right-wing elements in India are ready to give Garcetti a hot reception as and when he takes up his new job – a position not filled after Kenneth Jester, appointed by Donald Trump, returned home in 2021.  

Garcetti touched the raw nerve of the ruling dispensation when he said that as US ambassador he would like to personally interact with India civil society groups to discuss human rights and related issues.

Admittedly, the statement was made by him quite some time ago and by now he must have understood that the Indian government is touchy about human rights, state of democracy and secularism in India. But it is quite likely that after he lands in India, he may indeed like to discuss certain matters with Indians that rile the ruling dispensation. It is bad enough if these matters are raised by Indian nationals, but for foreigners it will be blasphemous.

The Indian anger directed at Garcetti has so far remained more or less confined to the social media platforms but it is unlikely that there is no official backing for the muted voices being raised against Garcetti.  

After Rahul Gandhi’s talks in London, the Modi government has become more touchy about questions related to democratic practices in India.  The BJP has alleged that Rahul Gandhi has invited countries like the US and the UK to restore the health of Indian democracy.  

In such a scenario, it is obvious that a foreigner even if he is going to be the ambassador of a ‘friendly’ country will be hauled over the coal should he transgress the red-lines. (SAT)