MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (Diya TV) – During a visit to Silicon Valley, the new U.S. Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti. opened up about his new role. A seasoned politician who was last Mayor of Los Angeles, Garcetti has been making his presence known in short order in India as he looks to make up for lost time after his appointment was held up in the Senate for nearly two years.

Ravi Kapur:

We’re joined by Eric Garcetti, the Ambassador of the United States to India. Ambassador, I’m pleased to finally join you here in Silicon Valley of all places.

Eric Garcetti:

Absolutely. It’s great to be back in California. I just came from Washington, DC, where we had our annual ambassador’s conference. But I said, when I got this invitation, I got to come out post-election, talk to my state, which is so strong in the Indian American community, about all the great work that’s happening.

Ravi Kapur:

I hate to put you on the spot right from the get-go, but you were the mayor of Los Angeles. Is this gig better than that one?

Eric Garcetti:

Neither is better. I always said the best job in the world is probably being mayor of a big city in America. But the most fun job I’ve ever had is being US Ambassador to India. It’s exciting, never the same day. Day after day in this incredible intersection of the two most powerful democracies, who are really getting not only to know each other, but I think are the difference makers and the balance of power in the world, in the balance of democracy in the world and the balance of our economy. And so, I couldn’t ask for more exciting place to be. I don’t have to compare the two. I loved being mayor. But this has been incredible.

Ravi Kapur:

Now we can leave the past in the past. But it did take a while for you to get this job. So tell me about that whole transition. I never got a chance to ask you about it.

Eric Garcetti:

Well, there’s nothing like pent up demand. Because when I got to India, the reception has been so warm and so overwhelming. The delay allowed me to serve up my term as mayor. So that was nice in terms of LA. But getting there, I really hit the ground running. If you think about the first year that we’ve had. One, we had the State dinner. Prime Minister Modi coming here, not just with five or 10 deliverables, but 173 different things we were working on between our two countries.

Two months after that, the President comes to India for the G20. And we’ve had almost every member of the cabinet. We’ve had multiple visits of the Secretary of Treasury four times, our intelligence agencies, our regulatory agencies. This is awakening that’s happening, I think, in America about India. And policymakers, businesspeople, and others, are all saying, explain India to me, I need to know it. And so for me that timing of being able to be the Ambassador right now, as we see this relationship at historic highs, and more Americans interested in India than ever — couldn’t be a more beautiful gift.”

Ravi Kapur:

So I’m old enough to know that this US-India relationship wasn’t this chummy. Give me your context about the US, India and go back a few years. The fact that we have these governments and across administrations working together — what have you seen now that you’ve been on the inside?

Eric Garcetti:

“It’s a great question, and I similarly, I was first exposed to India when I was 14 years old. And I’ll date myself that was 1985. Went back a few years later, when my college roommate who was randomly assigned to me, his father, Bill Clark, became the US Ambassador to India. I was studying Hindi and Urdu, I was doing the great religious texts and the great cultural texts of India. And he said, ‘you want to go to India?’ I spent two nights in the ambassador’s residence when I was 19.

And I’ve come back, every decade of my life to India, and just seeing the incredible changes the infrastructure, the growth of the population, the economy. But I’ve also been able to see the through line of things that don’t change, kind of the diversity of democracy, the rootedness, the warmth of the people. And as Ambassador, I’ve been blown away by how that kind of soul has stayed the same, even as the physical manifestation of this country has changed.”

Ravi Kapur:

“It seems like you’ve manifested this post then if you’ve been thinking about it since you were a teenager.”

Eric Garcetti:

“It was a dream that I had thought I said, One day, I’m going to live in India, and I actually was going to go junior year abroad to live in Bodhgaya, where Buddha was enlightened and do a Buddhist Studies program. But politics got in the way and I got elected to student council at Columbia, where I was in school. So I said ‘I guess that dream died.’ But India has a way of kind of pulling you back. And India successfully got me back.”

Ravi Kapur:

“Tell me about all the initiatives you’ve been working on. You’ve only been there a short time, but I’ve seen you almost hit every single state in the country. Tell me about this whole process.”

Eric Garcetti:

Well, not all of them yet. But 23 of the 36 states and territories have already gone to in one year. And really that breadth, whether it’s from the Himalayas, all the way down to the southern tip in Kanyakumari, or the northeast, going to Nagaland close to the border, all the way to the border with Pakistan and Punjab. You really get a sense that this is a country of countries, that each village has a different recipe, the languages change across state lines. But there’s a through line right now. There’s a pride in India. There’s a real sense that we finally are coming economically up eradicating poverty for a lot of people into the middle class, investing in infrastructure. I mean, the roads that I’m sure you experienced visiting India, as a kid, that I certainly remember, are now paved. They’re super highways, There’s new trains coming up. There’s 15 airports a year, big airports, that’s one more than one a month coming up. So that to me, really shows that India is investing not just in prosperity today, but really a plan for being a major economy tomorrow.

Second point I’d say is even though Americans have been pretty ignorant about India, in general, I think it’s fair to say Indians know America and Americans much better than vice versa. That has started to change and the number of Indian immigrants like your parents, students who’ve come over now the number one source of higher education students in America last year, overwhelmingly. They’ve embedded a bridge that exists now on both sides of the Indo Pacific. And increasingly, it’s a two-way bridge. It’s not just American companies going to India and making investments. But here’s a good stat: in two weeks, we’ll have our annual big Commerce Department Investment Summit called Select USA. Every country in the world comes their second year running. Most delegates will come from India — the biggest dollar amount of investments in our country from that process. India went $3.4 billion. So it’s really a two-way street now. Whatever you think the US-India relationship is us helping India or putting jobs they’re outsourcing. It’s not. It’s actually a two-way equal relationship in so many ways. And I think it’s really taking off to the stars.

Ravi Kapur:

Take me back to the State visit — Prime Minister Modi coming to Washington, DC. And then of course, President Biden, going to India for the G20. I’m sure you were intimately involved with both affairs. Give me some perspective of what took place.

Eric Garcetti:

The State visit first, as I mentioned earlier, I talked to some veterans of State visits, they’re very important symbolically showing two countries that are close to leaders that are close. And we certainly not that there was great rapport between our President and the Indian Prime Minister, but the takeaways, the actual material things that the country is promised to do.

People told me if you get five or 10, that’s a successful State visit. As I mentioned, we had 173 things from cultural, educational space, defense, economic, reducing tariffs, getting a new satellite up together, putting an Indian astronaut into an American mission this year, being able to expand our agriculture, our higher education cooperation, the initiative on critical emerging technologies, which is looking at Quantum AI, telecommunications, semiconductor space and defense. I mean, we used to say the sky’s the limit. Now that we’re actually in space together, we say it’s beyond that, and from the seabed to the stars. That visit really embedded work that hasn’t slowed down. Then when the President came to the G20, It wasn’t only that we continued that momentum, but I think the US and India demonstrated when we are together, we’re unstoppable. You know, it’s a very complicated group of countries in the G20. Couple of wars going on in the world. Now one of the major ones was already underway there, obviously with Russia, Ukraine. India and the United States talk to different sets of countries, but coordinate their diplomacy together to get a unanimous statement out of 20 very complicated, not always friendly countries. And to me, that’s what I keep saying is that it’s not India plus the US when India and the US come together. It’s India times the US. It’s a multiplicative relationship, not additive. And we’re now doing that sort of work on development, training, doctors and nurses from Fiji and telemedicine in Delhi, paid for by the US government. Philippines, Tanzania’s next solar panels that we’re bringing the digital stack that India has pioneered, we’re learning things from each other. And I think we’re the preferred partners of each other. And when we get together, we’re not just thinking about what’s good for India, what’s good for the United States think what’s good for the world. And that, to me is a very powerful new chapter.

Ravi Kapur:

One of the things that was announced during the G20 was this corridor between India going all the way through into Italy and through the Middle East. I know the United States have a heavy involvement in potentially providing investment capital for that. And obviously the Israel-Hamas situation has derailed things, at least for the moment. Where does that project stand? Because it was obviously a huge bit of news during the G20.

Eric Garcetti:

Yeah, it’s called the IMEC. It’s called IMEC, the India Middle East Corridor really does extend from Europe to India and potentially beyond because now that India and Bangladesh have a port where they can take containers from one side to the other, and then into Southeast Asia.

Interestingly enough, even with conflict in the Middle East, nothing in the planning has slowed down. Saudi Arabia, even Israel in the midst of war, European countries, other Arab countries, and India, together with us have done all the necessary planning, even if there had been peace that would have taken a couple of years to start thinking through, what are the roots? What kind of ports do we need, some of this will be by sea, what sort of land corridors do we need? And it has a bigger promise than just trade my mind, this can be a part of the solution in the Middle East as well, that one day we can think beyond conflict and beyond war, by embedding cultures and economies together. It ensures the peace in the future, when people have mutual prosperity, and keeping the peace is necessary for the prosperity to me, that is as good of a part of this as the actual material benefits that will come. So we’re looking at how do we get the best companies in the world, the fairest financing, that doesn’t put countries in debt? Because we see these debt traps everywhere else that other countries have gotten some of our friends and neighbors in? How can we make this the old kind of spice route, bring back that as a core part of economic development, but also mutual kind of social integration?

Ravi Kapur:

So you think it’s on track? There is no delay?

Eric Garcetti:

It has not slid up one bit. And in fact, somebody who is really embedded in it said, in some ways, the quiet work that was necessary. If the war hadn’t been happening, people would be asking every single day it’s allowed us to work even quicker than before.

Ravi Kapur:

And when do you think we’ll sort of see some public traction on this project?

Eric Garcetti:

You know, it’s a big idea that will obviously take years to build. But I think in the next couple of years, and certainly if we can achieve peace in the Middle East, and even if this can be a part of achieving the rebuilding of the conflict that we see, then I think we will get the chance to see some actual infrastructure in this decade.

Ravi Kapur:

Take me through working with President Biden, obviously, he’s in the midst of an election. India just had a major election. What did you witness being in India? What does you expect here in the United States?

Eric Garcetti:

You know, I saw an incredible election just now. I mean, to see 650 million people, including voting machines being hiked up into hills with donkeys for days to ensure its people’s vote was incredibly impressive. And we congratulate Prime Minister Modi and NDA, putting a coalition back together. It’ll be a coalition government. So that means many people will be a part of this. But similarly, here, you know, we have an election as well in the second biggest democracy.

And now I’m a diplomat. So I don’t say anything political. It’s a Hatch Act, and it’s necessary by law. But I’ll say this, that I’m blown away with the commitment of both countries, people: the democracy. It’s easy to get dispirited, and to say, oh, my gosh, can you believe this disinformation? Or I don’t like this candidate at a given time. Or how did he or she get elected? But at the end of the day, democracies do put the power in the hands of voters, and they are wise. And they will exercise that and more times than not, I think, make the right decision. I know, even when we screw it up, I’d much rather live in a democracy than a dictatorship.

Ravi Kapur:

Let me ask you quickly about President Biden’s change in asylum policy. Obviously, there’s been a ton of Indians that have crossed the border in recent years. Give me your perspective on that change because there has been a lot of Punjabis that have crossed the border. We’ve been following that. And obviously the Khalistan situation in light of the US, Canada, India — that dynamic as well.

Eric Garcetti:

We are working together with India. A lot of people don’t know that on our southern border. The latest statistics I saw is that Indians are the number three country after Mexicans and Salvadorians have unlawful entry into the country. And that’s a problem we need to solve together. We need to make sure there’s not criminals that are coming over the border. We need to similarly make sure that if there are criminals that we catch, that Indian authorities can bring justice to them, and to make sure that we don’t have cross national criminal activities, gangs, trafficking, drugs that we see hit the streets here, and also that have affected Indians. I would say our law enforcement has never worked more closely together. We always take threats very seriously, whether it’s against Indian diplomats or diplomatic facilities. But at the same time, we also have to uphold our own laws here and respect the laws of India. But I will say, working on this, I’ve never seen as close coordination and understanding as we’ve had in our entire lifetimes on criminal justice stuff together and immigration.