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India Limits Use of Professional Lobbying Firm to Influence US Policymakers

© AP Photo / Gurinder OsanU.S. and Indian flags. File photo
U.S. and Indian flags. File photo - Sputnik International
Experts are of the opinion that the Indian Diaspora in America and other interest groups including the Indian Caucus are stronger lobbying tools and that the limited engagement of professional lobbying firm BGR would have no negative impact on Indian interests in the US.

New Delhi (Sputnik) India has drastically cut its lobbying expenses in the United States as evident from the earnings for the last quarter reported by lobbying firm BGR which has been a primary intermediary between the Indian government and US lawmakers since more than a decade. BGR which received not less than $180,000 in almost every quarter since April-June 2010, has reported a meager earning of $5000 for the quarter ended September 2017. The only time when BGR’s earnings from India fell below $5000 was in April-June 2010. Before that in 2009, it had received payments as high as $200,000.

BGR was reportedly paid less than $5,000 as "income relating to lobbying activities" for the quarter ended September 30. The disclosure report was filed with the US Senate and the US House of Representatives and cites no reason for the decline in the quarterly payment. The $5,000 is the lowest lobbying 'income' received by BGR from the Indian government since April-June period of 2010.

Experts, however, are not concerned with the decline in Indian government’s spending and say engaging professional lobbying firms is just one way of pursuing national interests.

“While it is true that the Indian government funding has gone down, engaging a professional firm and spending on it is just one aspect of the entire exercise. India is now relying more on its powerful Diaspora to promote its interests. There are other ways of lobbying which include pressure groups, Diaspora, and most importantly, India Caucus, which cares for its Indian American voters and depends on them for funding. Also, lobbying has already transformed India-US ties and now there has been a massive convergence of strategic and business interests between both nations,” Dr Ashok Sharma, University of New South Wales Canberra at Australian Defence Force Academy, told Sputnik.

Sharma is also author of “Indian Lobbying and Its Influence in US Decision Making: Post-Cold War.”

READ MORE: Political Triangle: Prospects of US-India Alliance Amid China's Rise

BGR has been lobbying in the US on behalf of the Indian government for now over a decade since 2005 on issues related to “bilateral ties”. The firm till 2009 also lobbied on issues related to civil nuclear agreement. India has consistently reportedly spent around $180,000 for each quarter since October-December 2010. In the quarters before that, India had spent $120,000, $60,000 and less than $5,000 respectively.

The highest quarterly amount so far has been recorded in fourth quarter of 2009 when BGR was paid $200,000. Cumulatively, the lobbying firm has been paid a total amount of about $8 million since the end of 2005.

While the Indian government outgo for lobbying has declined, there has been a rise in lobbying activities from several US-based entities representing businesses for India-related issues.

Industry group – Alliance for Fair Trade with India (AFTI) the US Chamber of Commerce and Boeing are reportedly lobbying over issues such as bilateral investment treaty negotiations with India, intellectual property rights related issues, as also economic and commercial relations between the two countries

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