India hires second lobbying firm in US to counter Pak propaganda, boost bilateral ties

Concerned over the increasing critical scrutiny in US Congress of matters sensitive to India, especially Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370, New Delhi has hired second lobbying firm in Washington that will assist its diplomats in effectively dealing with the U.S. Government, the U.S. Congress, select state governments, as well as academic institutions and think-tanks.

India hires Cornerstone in US | Key points

1. The Indian government has hired the services of Cornerstone Government Affairs (CGA) which is considered to be close to the Democratic Party whose members have displayed hostility towards Indian position on Kashmir. In addition to CGA, India will continue with the services of its current lobbying firm, BGR Government Affairs, which is believed to be influential with the Republicans.

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2. The CGA, in fact, replaces Podesta Group which used to help India with Democrats earlier. However, the Podesta Group was shut down in 2017 after it came under the scrutiny of Special Counsel Robert Muller for its work for the government of Ukraine in connection with investigations against Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

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3. After the closure of Podesta Group, India did not hire any other firm to lobby with the Democrats as Republicans controlled the White House as well as both chambers of US Congress for a long time. However, the need for the services of such a firm was felt after the Democrats got control of the House of Representatives in November 2018 and a hearing in the House over the situation in Kashmir in October this year post-Article 370 abrogation didn’t go well for India despite US state department’s top diplomat for South Asia Alice G Wells forcefully defending New Delhi’s actions.

4. According to a copy of the contract filed with the US Justice Department, Cornerstone will provide “strategic counsel, tactical planning and government relations assistance on policy matters before the U.S. Government, the U.S. Congress, and select state governments, as well as academic institutions and think-tanks”. It’s a three-month contract and the Indian government will pay $40,000 per month to CGA, according to reports. Located in downtown Washington DC, Cornerstone Global Affairs was founded in 2002 as a bipartisan public affairs firm.

5. In July 2019, Pakistan hired the services of Holland and Knight lobbying firm, to advance Pakistan’s interests in the US. Pakistan hired a lobbying firm in the United States after a gap of 6 years. The recent criticism of Indian actions relating to Kashmir is being seen as the result of the pro-active lobbying on behalf of Pakistan by its lobbying form.

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