Senate panel to take up long-delayed confirmation process for envoys to India, Pakistan

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to take up the long-delayed confirmation process for Eric Garcetti as the ambassador to India and Donald Armin Blome as the envoy to Pakistan on Tuesday

Arul Louis Dec 14, 2021
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Eric Garcetti(L) and Donald Blome(R)

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to take up the long-delayed confirmation process for Eric Garcetti as the ambassador to India and Donald Armin Blome as the envoy to Pakistan on Tuesday.

Garcetti is the mayor of Los Angeles and is considered close to President Joe Biden, having been a co-chair of his election campaign. Blome, on the other hand, is a career diplomat, who is the US ambassador to Tunisia.

The US tends to send political nominees as ambassadors to important posts, often selecting presidents' supporters or those raising political funds and they usually have a direct line to the presidents and top officials. Fifteen of the 23 ambassadors in New Delhi have been political appointees. 

Blome has served as the political counsellor at the embassy in Kabul, giving him crucial insights into the region in the aftermath of US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Islamabad's influence over the Taliban that now rules its neighbour. Blome has also done stints in Baghdad, Riyadh and Kuwait, all important capitals from the US perspective. 

Career diplomats are often picked over political appointees to head embassies in hot spots where their special expertise and low profiles can help delicate diplomacy. All the 17 US ambassadors to Pakistan since 1973 have been foreign service officers.

The appointments of all ambassadors and senior officials have to be confirmed by the Senate. The process starts with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which hears statements from the nominees and then questions them before voting whether to send the nomination to the full Senate.

The panel does not usually vote immediately on the nomination but continues questioning the nominee in a written format.

Despite the importance of the New Delhi post because of Biden's priorities in the Indo-Pacific and in facing China's aggressive posture, Garetti's nomination has been on hold. Biden nominated Garcetti in July but it has taken more than five months for his candidacy to be taken by the Senate panel because of a logjam created by Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

Using his senatorial privilege which allows senators to single-handedly delay some of the Senate's work, Cruz stopped the nomination process for envoys for several months because of an unrelated dispute with Biden over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that Russia is building to Germany.

If confirmed, Garcetti will succeed Ken Juster, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

Garcetti is a former intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve who served under the US Pacific Fleet Commander and in the Defense Intelligence Agency.

After the last ambassador to Pakistan - David Hale, was promoted to undersecretary of state in 2018 - the post has been vacant (SAM)

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