Eric Garcetti, US ambassador to India, emphasises American trust in New Delhi amid China threats

Addressing a critical concern in India-US bilateral ties on Thursday, Washington’s leading diplomat in New Delhi unequivocally affirmed trust in India, particularly regarding the complex dynamics with China and Russia.

Eric Garcetti, who assumed the role of US ambassador to India in May last year, also urged liberating the American foreign policy from “unconscious paternalism” in speaking at a Council on Foreign Relations event in Washington.

He advocated for fostering an “equal relationship”, underscoring the valuable lessons and collaborative opportunities that can be gleaned from India in addressing the threats posed by China.

“When I go [to the US Congress] and they’re like, ‘India needs to be with us on China’, I am like, they are the ones who banned TikTok, whether you agree or not, like four years ago. They’re the ones who just lost soldiers on the front lines in 2020. They’re the ones who every single day are blocking and tackling and trying to engage with China,” Garcetti said, emphasising the importance of the US learning from and cooperating with New Delhi.



Biden, Modi hail new era of US-India ties and tout deals

Biden, Modi hail new era of US-India ties and tout deals

With over 200 million users, India stood as TikTok’s largest market until June 2020, when the government banned the video-sharing platform, alongside 58 other Chinese apps. This decision followed a border clash in the disputed Himalayan region that claimed the lives of approximately 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers.

Meanwhile, the US has talked about banning TikTok since 2020 because of data security and disinformation concerns. US President Joe Biden recently signed legislation giving the Chinese-owned platform a year to secure an American buyer, failing which it faces a nationwide ban. TikTok sued the US government this week, claiming First Amendment free-speech violations.

Garcetti described China threat as “a piece of glue” in the India-US relationship, emphasising Washington’s role in bolstering New Delhi’s strategic capabilities in areas such as intelligence sharing, “to look at military solutions, to keep the peace and countering disinformation”.

During an India-China border clash in December 2022, the US provided real-time information, including satellite imagery, about Chinese positions, enraging Beijing. India and the US are also partners in the Washington-led Quad security grouping, which also includes Japan and Australia.

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Garcetti disagreed that US ties with India were a “romance of convenience”, but noted “we all are suspicious of each other. Like, are you cheating us with China? Are you cheating on me with China?”

Discussing India’s continuing purchase of Russian oil despite American objections, Garcetti emphasised historical context, pointing out that in the 1970s, the US shifted its focus towards China and Pakistan, inadvertently nudging India closer to the Soviet Union.

He added that India’s purchase of Russian oil “was not a violation” and that it had helped the price of oil remain stable in the global market. He also mentioned Washington and New Delhi’s collaborative efforts in diplomatically engaging with China and Russia regarding Ukraine at the G20 summit last September.

“And we were able to deliver Europe, they were able to deliver Russia. That boxed in China and it showed, again, this multiplicative relationship when we get together,” Garcetti said, revealing that India pressured Russia on the joint statement critical of Russia’s invasion.

From left, US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a Quad meeting on May 20, 2023. Photo: Reuters

The G20 summit in New Delhi resulted in a joint statement that refrained from directly condemning Russia for its war in Ukraine. Instead, it emphasised the collective commitment of all member states to refrain from using force to seize territory.

Garcetti noted that New Delhi still favoured the ideology of non-alignment, while Washington was comfortable with the “romantic ambiguity” inherent in this stance.

“They don’t need an ally. So in romantic terms they don’t ever want to get married. But I always say like, let’s keep some romantic ambiguity, at least about where this is headed,” he said, saying the differences between democracies are much less even in their worst moments than with dictatorships.

When asked about the Indian elections and reports of erosion of human rights under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist who is running for a third term, Garcetti said the US was taking up the issue “strongly” but “respectfully”.

“I just disagree that we don’t speak out about them, we put them out. I mean, some people want us to only say that, but this is too important a relationship to spend all day long only saying that over and over. You’re not going to get anything else done,” he said.



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