Washington: US President Joe Biden has nominated Los Angeles mayor and climate advocate Eric Garcetti to be the US ambassador to India, a country Washington sees as a key partner in its effort to push back against China's expanding power and influence.
Garcetti, a Biden loyalist who co-chaired the successful Biden-Harris 2020 election campaign, has served as mayor of Los Angeles since 2013.
The White House biography accompanying the announcement of Garcetti's nomination highlighted his role in co-founding the bipartisan "Climate Mayors" network and in leading more than 400 U.S. mayors to adopt the Paris Climate agreement.
It said Garcetti is the current Chair of C40 Cities, which it described as "a network of 97 of the world’s biggest cities taking bold climate action," and led the organization’s engagement and expansion in India and its global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
India is the world's third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States, albeit with far lower emissions per capita than those countries. It is under pressure from the United States and others to commit to a target of decarbonizing its economy by 2050.
Garcetti issued a statement saying he was "honoured" to accept the nomination, which has to be confirmed by the US Senate.
Garcetti was a Rhodes Scholar who studied at Oxford and the London School of Economics, and also lived and conducted field work on nationalism, ethnicity, and human rights in Southeast Asia and Northeast Africa, the White House said.
It said he spent 12 years as an intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve Component, serving under the commander of the US Pacific Fleet and with the Defense Intelligence Agency, before retiring in 2017 as a lieutenant.
Biden has sought to strengthen ties with India, particularly through the Quad group of countries, which also includes Australia and Japan, all of which share concerns about China.
The White House says Biden will host a summit of Quad leaders this year focusing on infrastructure after a virtual meeting in March.
The grouping agreed at that meeting that Indian drugmaker Biological E Ltd would produce at least a billion vaccine doses by the end of 2022, mainly for Southeast Asian and Pacific countries.
However, India, the world's largest vaccine producer, was subsequently hit by a catastrophic wave of infections and halted vaccine exports amid intense criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's domestic vaccination efforts.