India hires lobbying firm Cornerstone to reach out to Democrats

This comes after several Democrat lawmakers criticised New Delhi’s decision to dilute Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir

December 07, 2019 10:56 pm | Updated 10:56 pm IST - Washington

American and Indian flag pair on desk over defocused background. Horizontal composition with copy space and selective focus.

American and Indian flag pair on desk over defocused background. Horizontal composition with copy space and selective focus.

At a time when its legislative changes to Jammu and Kashmir’s status have been criticised by U.S. lawmakers, especially Democrats, the Government of India has hired lobbying firm Cornerstone Government Affairs, which has strong ties to the Democrat side, to represent its interests in Washington.

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,” the letter of engagement attached to the FARA (Foreign Agent Registration Act) form said.

Strong ties to Democrats

The firm has strong ties to the Democrat side of the aisle and is the government’s solution to fill a lobbying gap on that side, particularly by reaching out to a section of Democrats who have strongly criticised the government’s policy’s in Kashmir.

Cornerstone will be paid $40,000 per month under the contract, which started on December 1 and runs through the end of February.

The Indian government continues to employ lobbying firm BRG Group, to work on the Republican side of things. However, the gap on the Democrat side became more apparent after Democrats took charge of the House in January this year.

Since India brought legislative changes and restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir in early August, a number of lawmakers, mostly Democrat, had written letters to the State Department and U.S. President Donald Trump on the issue, or spoken about it publicly.

Hearing on Kashmir

This culminated in an October 22 hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia that focused on Kashmir. There was another hearing by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission – a caucus-like group on Capitol Hill in November.

Earlier, for lobbying the Democratic side, India had hired the Podesta Group. This firm was run by Tony Podesta, who founded the company with his brother John Podesta, who worked in the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama White Houses and famously ran Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign against Mr. Trump.

The firm shut shop in November 2017 as it came to light (due to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections) that the Podesta Group had not declared that it was hired by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to work for a Ukrainian non-profit.

Since August 5, India’s envoy to Washington, Harsh Shringla and his team have been meeting U.S. lawmakers both in Washington and at the State level to explain India’s position on the Kashmir situation and the dilution of Article 370, after which the erstwhile State was demarcated into two Union Territories.

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