WASHINGTON: Eric Garcetti, President Joe Biden's close aide, was officially sworn in as the US Ambassador to India by Vice President Kamala Harris, ending over two years of delay to fill one of Washington's most critical diplomatic position.
Garcetti's daughter Maya held the Hebrew Bible during the swearing-in ceremony on Friday, which was presided by Vice President Harris.
Garcetti raised his right hand while Harris performed the ceremony, and family members cheered when the two longtime friends shook hands.
The ceremony was attended by his close family members, including wife Amy Wakeland, father Gil Garcetti, mother Sukey Garcetti and mother-in-law Dee Wakeland.
"It feels great. Can't wait to serve," Garcetti, 52, said when asked about his new diplomatic assignment.
"I'm so honoured the vice president did this," he said.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff also attended the event.
Former Mayor of Los Angeles Garcetti's nomination was pending before the US Congress since July 2021 when he was nominated by President Biden.
The Senate voted 52 to 42 to confirm Garcetti earlier this month after his nomination stalled amid concerns by some lawmakers that he had not adequately handled allegations of sexual assault and harassment against a former senior adviser.
Garcetti's nomination was not brought to the Senate floor for a vote during the last Congress as the ruling Democratic Party did not have enough support to get him through.
President Biden renominated him to the same position in January this year.
Garcetti supporters argued that geopolitical concerns were too important to leave India without an ambassador.
The US Embassy in India has been without an ambassador since January 2021, the longest stretch in the history of US-India relations that the post has sat vacant, since Kenneth Juster, the last US envoy in New Delhi, stepped down after the change of government in America.
Today, I had the honor of swearing in my fellow Californian, Eric Garcetti, to be our next Ambassador to India. Ambassador Garcetti is a committed public servant and will play a critical role in strengthening our partnership with the people of India. pic.twitter.com/sL8WQWEs6y— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) March 24, 2023
Biden has sought to bolster economic ties with India as he looks to counter China's growing influence in the region and shore up support for Ukraine against continued Russian aggression.
India has not explicitly condemned Russia's invasion and has continued to buy cheap gas from Moscow.
Asked when he plans to travel to India, Garcetti said: "Hopefully as soon as I can."
The ceremony in Harris' office also marked a personal moment between two politicians who ascended the California political world together.
Harris and Garcetti's relationship spans more than 15 years, during which she served as California's attorney general and later as a US senator for the state, the Los Angeles Times said.
He has also spoken about their bond over being mixed race: Harris is of Indian and Jamaican descent and Garcetti is Jewish and Mexican American.