By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate confirmed President Joe Biden's nominee Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India on Wednesday, ending a nearly two-year nomination fight over allegations the former Los Angeles mayor mishandled workplace harassment complaints.
Senators backed Garcetti by 52-42, as seven Republicans joined the majority of Democrats in supporting Garcetti and three Democrats joined most Republicans in voting no.
The United States has not had an ambassador to New Delhi since January 2021, an absence that has loomed large as Washington looks to India to be a partner in efforts to push back against China's expanding power and influence.
"The United States-India relationship is extremely important and it's a very good thing we now have an ambassador," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who led a congressional delegation to India last month.
Biden is eager to deepen ties with India, the world's largest democracy and a major U.S. trading partner, as part of his bid to win what he has framed as a contest between free and autocratic societies.
There are an estimated 2.7 million Indian immigrants living in the United States.
However, New Delhi has frustrated Washington by participating in military exercises with Russia and increasing purchases of the country's crude oil, an important source of funding for the war in Ukraine. India is also a major purchaser of Russian military equipment.
Biden nominated Garcetti for the post in July 2021 but he was held up partly due to questions about his handling of allegations of sexual harassment against an aide when he was mayor. Garcetti has denied wrongdoing.
Los Angeles mayor from 2013 until a term limit pushed him from office last year, Garcetti is close to Biden and co-chaired his 2020 presidential campaign.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mark Porter, Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis)