Eric Garcetti: India Vital to Future of American Security and Prosperity

Washington, DC – Testifying in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told US senators considering his nomination to be ambassador to India that “Few nations are more vital to the future of American security and prosperity than India.”

A Rhodes scholar who studied Hindi and Indian cultural and religious history in college, Garcetti recalls that when he graduated, US-India relations were under the shadow of the cold war, trade was limited, and there was no defense trade or military interoperability. Garcetti commended the bipartisan work of Congress in bringing about a strong US-India strategic partnership, and said if confirmed, he would work toward an ambitious economic partnership with India, reduce barriers to market access, bolster fair trade and create good jobs for the American middle class.

“India is situated in a tough neighborhood,” said Garcetti. “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 – 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 defense technologies in order to realize the full potential of our Major Defense Partnership.”

The question of India’s purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia was brought up in today’s hearing, with Ranking Member James Risch (R-ID) saying that “”We cannot ignore the reality of concerns over India’s defense relationship with Russia.” Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also commented that New Delhi would need to address concerns about its treatment of minorities and purchase of Russian hardware if it wants to strengthen its partnership with the US.

Garcetti spoke of how, as Mayor, he chaired C40 –– a global network of mayors from the world’s largest cities –– to combat climate change and to share the experience of Los Angeles, which is on track to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. He promised that if confirmed, he would work with India to promote green energy through the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and through the Agenda 2030 Climate and Clean Energy Partnership. ISA is an alliance of 124 countries initiated by India, and the US joined as a member last month.

Garcetti gave a shout out to his parents, Gil and Sukey Garcetti, who were present at the hearing today, and who first took him to India as a teenager.

Garcetti is a veteran who served 12 years in the US Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer. He is currently in his second term as Mayor of Los Angeles.

Secretary Blinken Shows Support for Religious Freedom, Tibet

New Delhi – In his first visit to India as Secretary of State, Antony Blinken kicked off a packed schedule of meetings on Wednesday July 28, with a show of support to the Tibetan cause. Secretary Blinken met with Ngodup Dongchung, a representative of the Dalai Lama and member of the Central Tibetan Administration (Tibetan government in exile).

Blinken’s first engagement was a Civil Society Roundtable with the theme “Advancing Equitable, Inclusive, and Sustainable Growth and Development.” In his opening remarks at the Roundtable, Blinken stressed upon the shared values and beliefs of the Indian and American people, including human dignity, equality of opportunity, the rule of law, and freedom of religion and belief. “We believe that all people deserve to have a voice in their government and be treated with respect no matter who they are,” said Blinken.

Blinken commented that both democracies are works in progress. “As friends, we talk about that, because doing the hard work of strengthening democracy and making our ideals real is often challenging. We know that firsthand in the United States, where we aspire to be, in the words of our founders, a more perfect union. That’s an acknowledgement from day one of our country that in a sense we will always fall short of the mark, but that the way to make progress is by constantly trying to achieve those ideals. As I said before, sometimes that process is painful, sometimes it’s ugly, but the strength of democracy is to embrace it,” added Blinken.

Participants in the discussion included Geshe Dorji Damdul, the Delhi-based Director of Tibet House; constitutional lawyer Menaka Guruswamy; Inter-Faith foundation founder Khwaja Iftikhar Ahmed; and representatives of the Baha’i, Sikh and Christian communities among others.

Secretary of State Blinken Travels to India

Washington, DC – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken embarked on his first visit to India on Monday July 26. He will be meeting with Prime Minister Modi, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, and National Security Advisor Doval.

In a briefing on Secretary Blinken’s travel to India, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson said, “we expect the discussions to focus on ways to further deepen our bilateral partnership, which is very broad in scope, as well as increased convergence on regional and global issues.” Issues to be discussed during this visit include cooperation on COVID-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and addressing the climate crisis. This visit also will discuss a potential Quad Summit at the Head of State level toward September/October 2021. Although some media reports have tried to divert the focus only on human rights issues, this visit goes deeper than that and has substantive issues of great importance for both countries and the world.

On July 16, the US had announced a US-Afghanistan-Uzebekistan-Pakistan’ Quad diplomatic platform “focused on enhancing regional connectivity”. Commenting on “efforts to support a just and durable peace in Afghanistan,” in the briefing, Thompson said, “ All of Afghanistan’s neighbors and countries in the region have an interest in a peaceful, secure, and stable Afghanistan, which can only be accomplished through a negotiated political settlement that brings an end to 40 years of conflict. India, of course, is a critical partner in the region, and we welcome India’s shared commitment to peace and supporting economic development in Afghanistan.”

India has been hit hard with the second wave of the pandemic. Per the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 31,411,262 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India with 420,967 deaths, reported to WHO. As of 19 July 2021, a total of 406,481,493 vaccine doses have been administered.

On working with India to overcome the pandemic, Thompson said, “We’re confident that through our combined efforts, including through the Quad vaccine partnership and the G7-plus vaccine commitment, we will be able to share vaccines – safe and effective vaccines – to the Indo-Pacific region and the world. We will continue to seek ways in which we can work together to save lives around the world, and bring an end to the global pandemic.”

Climate Crisis
The bilateral meetings will focus on climate change, however the US has been silent on the International Solar Alliance (ISA) promoted by India to increase the use of solar energy to fight climate change. Speaking on the “complementary strengths” of India and the US in tackling the climate crisis, Thompson mentioned the US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership which was launched in April this year. He added that, “The partnership will reinforce our collective efforts to achieve both the goals of the Paris Agreement and our own ambitious 2030 targets for climate action and clean energy.”

“We look forward to further strengthening our ties with India to ensure a safer and more secure world,” added Thompson. “To that end, the Secretary and Defense Secretary Austin look forward to hosting their Indian counterparts for the annual U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue later this year.”

Secretary Blinken will have a full day of meetings in New Delhi on Wednesday July 28, before he leaves for Kuwait to meet with senior Kuwaiti leadership.