Blackwill stays India’s key lobbyis!

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Old 17-Dec-2007
Blackwill stays India’s key lobbyis!

Keeping N-Deal In Mind, Former US Envoy’s Firm Retained For 2nd Consecutive Year

New Delhi: With a firm eye on the nuclear deal and its future passage through the international and US system, the government has renewed the multi-million dollar contract of its favourite lobbyist in Washington.

Robert Blackwill’s firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers will be India’s sole lobbyist in the US for 2008 for the second consecutive year. In 2006, India had added Venable, another law firm engaged in Washington advocacy, to work the US Senate when the Hyde Act was doing the rounds of Capitol Hill.

India is looking at a period when the 123 agreement will need to go back to the Congress for an up-down vote at a time when Congress is Democrat-dominated and there is expectation that 2009 might throw up a Democrat administration as well. Besides, after the safeguards agreement is done, India will also have to plough the furrow at the Nuclear Suppliers Group for a “clean” exemption. All of which means a lobbyist — despite many in the Indian establishment screwing up their nose at the word — remains priority for this government. The nuclear deal is therefore the biggest deliverable for Blackwill’s BGR in 2008.

A former US ambassador to India and one who wears his India predilection on his sleeve, Blackwill — one of George Bush’s erstwhile Vulcans and a committed Republican — typically breezes through the Indian political system during his frequent visits here, working his way down from foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, never forgetting opposition leader L K Advani with whom he enjoys a personal rapport, and takes an approving interest in Rahul Gandhi.

In Washington, Blackwill’s office shows off Indian trivia — with a Ganesha statue vying for space with a portrait of “mother India” (not the movie.) At the 60th anniversary gala event in New York in September, Blackwill was a regular.

However, he apparently takes time to lobby with the Indian government for other BGR clients — reports recently said he had written a letter to telecom minister A Raja on the ongoing spectrum controversy, on behalf of AT&T.

In fact, lobbying for foreign companies in India is becoming quite the favourite activity for former US administration luminaries as well. Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright does serious advocacy work in India for corporate clients, as does former US defence secretary William Cohen, Bill Clinton’s national security adviser Sandy Berger and the original ‘Bushie’ NSA Brent Scowcroft

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