National

BJP unit registers under U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act

Photo: ofbjp.org

Photo: ofbjp.org  

The BJP has become the first mainstream political party from India to have named itself as a foreign principal of an organisation in the United States, after the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP) registered under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) under the U.S. Department of Justice. The registration was done on August 27, 2020, according to the registration statement filed by the OFBJP.

The FARA requires “agents representing the interests of foreign powers in a political or quasi political capacity [to]disclose their relationship with the foreign government and information about related finances”.

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BJP’s foreign affairs cell chief Vijay Chauthaiwale confirmed that the registration had taken place. “The OFBJP registered itself under FARA voluntarily,” he said.

Mr. Chauthaiwale said while the BJP and OFBJP had no financial transactions, and “all of the meetings and activities arranged by the OFBJP have been on a volunteer basis”, it was felt that it would be better to register under FARA and that the OFBJP had also consulted lawyers.

Under activities and services, the OFBJP says that it “primarily engages in support of the Principal (BJP) on its own initiative and receives no compensation for its efforts. Registrant does engage n regular communication with officials of the BJP and from time to time acts under the direction or at the request of BJP officials when planning events or distributing materials with the U.S..”

Following the registration, the OFBJP will have to declare any meetings with U.S. legislators, organisation of events and funding from U.S. groups. It will also not be possible for OFBJP members to use organisational help during the U.S. elections as it would then be seen as foreign interference. Mr. Chauthaiwale in fact wrote to the OFBJP last month that this separation should be followed strictly.

Most other entities from India registered under this Act are legal, lobby or public relations firms engaged by the Indian Embassy or the tourism department. An unknown political party from India, (Democratic Party of India) and a TV channel are also registered. Pakistan’s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (N) as well as Bangaldesh’s opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are some of the other political parties from the South Asian neighbourhood with FARA registration.

While Mr. Chauthaiwale did not comment on what were the triggers in this voluntary registration under FARA when the Act has been around since 1938, sources says that in April this year the U.S. department of Justice had announced that it would conduct an FARA enforcement drive with wider scrutiny of all consultants and organisations and sent a number of “deficiency notices”, asking suspected foreign agents to register or stop activity on behalf of foreign entities.

The BJP has denied that they received any such notice. The DoJ also published for the first time the names of more that a dozen entities who had been made to register or stop activity on behalf of the foreign entities, along with the names of more than a dozen entities who had been made to register between 2017-19.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 6:01:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bjp-unit-registers-under-us-foreign-agents-registration-act/article32573176.ece

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