The Indian Embassy in the United States has hired Cornerstone Government Affairs, an American lobbying firm, in an effort to build a positive opinion in Washington DC and beyond.
This comes about a month-and-a-half after a US Congressional hearing on the Kashmir situation, where the government was criticised for its decision to revoke special status for J&K under Article 370.
According to latest Foreign Agents Registration Act filings, the government has hired Cornerstone Government Affairs on a three-month contract to represent it 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,” according to a copy of the contract filed with the US Justice Department. The contract is worth $40,000 per month.
Not the first such hire
This is not the first time that the Indian Embassy in the US has hired services of lobbyists — it had hired lobbyists during the India-US nuclear deal in 2008. The embassy has already hired Haley Barbour’s BGR Government Affairs, which has been carrying out lobbying activities in the US.
The contract went into effect December 1 and is up to February 29.
While there is no official word on the contract, sources said the lobbying effort is part of India’s strategy to mobilise positive opinion on the Capitol Hill, which has suffered in recent months following the Kashmir decision.
According to sources, Cornerstone has a strong track record of lobbying in the White House, US Congress members and committees and different branches of the US administration, including US Trade Representatives’ (YSTR) office, Homeland Security, Defence, Treasury and others. At a time when India is facing tough questions from US Congress members on Kashmir, and is negotiating trade deal with the USTR’s office and team, and faces scrutiny on H1B visa issues from several US Congress members, services of such lobbying firms may come in handy, a source said.
Located in downtown Washington DC, Cornerstone Global Affairs is a prominent lobbying firm, which was founded in 2002 as a bipartisan public affairs firm.
In the past, the firm has represented several commercial interests — from Boeing to Citigroup, Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, US Rice Producers Association, among others — and even some universities, such as University of Chicago and University of Maryland.
Cornerstone has emerged as one of the big lobbying firms in the Donald Trump administration, which took in $9.26 million for its advocacy work throughout the beginning of 2017 – about $1 million more than the first six months of 2016.