After serving as the mayor of Los Angeles, one of the biggest cities in the U.S., Eric Garcetti will now take on New Delhi, one of the biggest cities in the world, as the newly sworn-in U.S. ambassador to India.

The position sat open for two years while the White House tried to get Garcetti’s nomination across the finish line, putting a damper on Washington’s relationship with India, one of the largest countries in the world and an important U.S. ally.

Former U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster told the Deseret News that Garcetti will have to decide what his approach will be on issues like trade, defense and concerns over Hindu nationalism. In Juster’s experience, engaging with the Indian government “privately” is “the best way to manage things.” Although he said that India is a “complicated country.”

Garcetti’s connections to the White House and State Department are also a big bonus, said Juster, who served as ambassador to India for nearly four years during the Trump administration.

“That is an important asset for an ambassador, as the Indians will know that their views will be heard in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

But, compared to Juster, Garcetti lacks foreign policy experience. Before becoming ambassador to India, Juster had worked alongside the governments of Panama, Bhutan, Japan and many others during his 40-year tenure as a senior government official.

Garcetti, on the other hand, served on the city council before becoming the mayor of Los Angeles, where issues like homelessness eclipsed his second term.

But Garcetti is now in New Delhi and is getting to work. He recently laid out his agenda for his new role in his first interview since being sworn in to office in March.

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He said on “LA Stories with Giselle Fernandez” that he will focus on expanding the U.S.-India partnership in areas like energy, technology and defense while bridging a gap between the two cultures.

“We’ve already had strong ties, but let’s capitalize on a mayor from Hollywood going to Bollywood and connecting this moment,” he said. “We can get to know that country better … and vice versa. They can get to know us better, too.”

On Thursday, Garcetti arrived at the U.S. consulate in Chanakyapuri, Delhi, in a pink auto-rickshaw, a three-wheeler vehicle, and greeted the U.S. Embassy staff.

The White House also seems ready to further develop the India-U.S. relationship.

“When we look at the relationship with India, it’s one of the most consequential relationships that the United States has in the world. And that still stands,” said press secretary Karine Jean- Pierre in a press briefing, before reiterating Garcetti’s plans.

Meanwhile, Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Deseret News that overall, the Indian community seems “very pleased to welcome Garcetti to Delhi.”

“The lack of an ambassador has been a sore point in bilateral ties between the United States and India,” he said. “Some interpreted this glaring absence as a sign that Washington, despite its rhetoric, did not place as much attention on India as other key allies and partners.”

Although Joe Biden nominated Garcetti in July 2021, he did not initially garner enough support, leaving the position open for two years.

As the Intelligencer reported, Garcetti’s adviser and chief fundraiser, Rick Jacobs, who helped boost his national and international image, was accused of sexual harassment. Garcetti came under fire for allegedly knowing about Jacob’s actions, putting his ambassadorship to India at risk. Garcetti denied the allegations.

Although his nomination was cleared by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa put it on hold to get more clarity over the allegations, according to the Los Angeles Times.

An investigation, led by Grassley, found that it was “more likely than not that Mayor Garcetti either had personal knowledge of the sexual harassment or should have been aware of it.”

Reports indicate that the parents of the 52-year-old mayor — Gil and Sukey Garcetti — hired a lobbying firm to ramp up efforts to expedite the confirmation of his ambassadorship. They spent roughly $90,000 in 2022 alone.

“I’ve never heard about a similar case where the parents of a major elected official hired a lobbyist to help,” said Jeff Birnbaum, president of BGR Public Relations and an expert in lobbying, per The Los Angeles Times.

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Regardless, Biden renominated Garcetti in January 2023, and this time around the former mayor won bipartisan support.

Apart from the allegations against Garcetti, he also made a faux pas during his confirmation hearing by making a remark about a piece of Indian legislation.

In response to a question about the Citizen Amendment Act, which sought to fast-track citizenship applications of non-Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Garcetti, said at his confirmation hearing in 2021 that he will “actively raise” human rights issues in New Delhi.

Tarun Vijay, a former member of parliament from Bharatiya Janata Party, called Garcetti’s remarks “ignorant” and Abhinav Prakash, the vice president of BJP’s youth wing, said it could fuel “anti-West sentiment” in India, according to Time Magazine.

But Vaishnav said that he doesn’t think “Indians are particularly bothered by what Garcetti has or has not said on India as questions of democracy and human rights have not really featured very prominently in the relationship, given the heavy emphasis on deepening security and economic ties.”

Vaishnav said he also considers Garcetti’s relationship with Biden as important for Indians.

It means that “the president has installed someone who is a close political ally who can pick up the phone and reach the president directly — not something all former U.S. ambassadors to Delhi can do,” Vaishnav said.

Although it’s worth noting, as Justin Huges, a law professor, wrote for the Los Angeles Times, key U.S. partners, like India require more than an ambassador to maintain good relations.

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For example, trade issues are usually taken on by the U.S. trade representative and the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, while a situation like the pandemic led to the involvement of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and India’s National Centre for Disease Control, he said.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo was in New Delhi last month where she called India’s prime minister a “visionary” who has a “desire to lift people out of poverty and move India forward as a global power,” according to The Hindu, an Indian national daily.

Raimondo met Indian CEOs and entrepreneurs on her trip, promising a deepening relationship between India and the U.S.