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New US envoy may get love from Jaishankar but should beware of Amit Shah

External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has dismissed the past remarks of designated US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti on human rights and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) by saying that he will make the non-career diplomat understand (the issues) with 100 per cent love.

Union home minister Amit Shah.

A political appointee, Eric Garcetti, former mayor of Los Angeles, had gone on record in 2021 that he would bring up human rights and discrimination such as via the CAA as the core piece of his engagement with India rather than as his obligation. At that time, he had said that he would directly reach out to Indian civil society on human rights. Garcetti was sworn by the US Vice President Kamala Harris on March 24 with his daughter Maya holding the Hebrew Bible at the ceremonial event in Washington.

Swearing in of Eric Garcetti as Ambassador to India by Vice President Kamala Harris on March 24.
Swearing in of Eric Garcetti as Ambassador to India by Vice President Kamala Harris on March 24.

While Garcetti may get 100 per cent love treatment from EAM Jaishankar, he may not expect the same response on human rights or the CAA from other key members of the Narendra Modi’s Cabinet particularly Home Minister and Minister of Cooperation Amit Shah. Legend has it that one of Garcetti’s predecessors, a full fledged ambassador, called on Shah when he was BJP President during the first tenure of the Modi government.

The US Ambassador to India, who were used to red carpet treatment from Indian establishment in the past, called on then BJP President Amit Shah at his Akbar Road residence over a cup of tea. Used to be feted by the Ministry of External Affairs in the past, the then US Ambassador raised the issue of Human Rights in India with then party president Amit Shah and was taken aback by the response from the BJP’s political chief. Known for his blunt temperament, Shah told the then US Ambassador that they should first talk about the human rights of the native Americans, who were put to sword by the Anglo-Saxons in the past two centuries.

The now Home Minister told the Ambassador that he needn’t be worried by human rights in India as inclusion is part of Indian culture and civilization. The conversation ended abruptly and the US Ambassador returned back to his Embassy.

Fact is that despite being the Home Minister of India since 2019 and party president for six years, Amit Shah has not left Indian shores and visited any foreign country. Ask him and the most likely answer would be that there are no votes for BJP to gather in foreign lands. Taking over the mantle of US Ambassador to India after a hiatus of two years, Garcetti should take note that Modi’s cabinet does not take kindly to unsolicited advice.

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