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Rice?s ex-aide joins US lobby firm

Barbour Griffiths & Rogers announces that Condoleezza Rice?s former counselor Philip Zelikow would be joining the firm, reports Pramit Pal Chaudhuri.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2007 03:08 IST

Barbour Griffiths & Rogers, the US lobby firm whose president is former US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill, announced on Monday that Condoleezza Rice’s former counselor Philip Zelikow would be joining the firm.

Zelikow, Blackwill said at a reception to mark the passage of the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement in Union Station in Washington DC, would focus on "India-related" projects. Zelikow, one of the key architects of the new Indian policy of the Bush administration, resigned late last year as the US Secretary of State's big picture man.

Though Barbour Griffiths & Rogers is no longer a lobby group for the Indian government — its contract with New Delhi lapsed at the end of 2006 and was not renewed — it has a number of Indian firms and US firms with Indian interests among its clientele.

New Delhi at present has no official lobbyist in Washington as the Ministry of External Affairs is reviewing the effectiveness of using such firms to promote Indian interests. India had also hired Venables, another lobbying firm, during the battle to get US congressional approval for the nuclear deal.

That firm's contract has also lapsed. Indian diplomats are skeptical that such lobbying firms are worth their high price tag. A lobbying contract can run into several hundred thousand dollars a year.

The experience of the Indo-US nuclear deal was that the Indian-American community and the US corporate lobby were far more effective than either of the official lobbying firms.

Though Pakistan has at least three official lobbying firms on its payroll and China six, the argument is that they need such firms because of the number of negative issues that weigh down their image in the US — including human rights problems, terrorism and trade concerns. India's image, on the other hand, is far more positive and benign.

Another factor that may have New Delhi holding back on the lobbying contracts is that with a Democratic Party-dominated Congress, lobbying groups like Blackwill's which have a strong Republican component may not be so effective.

It was notable at Monday's reception that no prominent Democratic congressmen came to the reception. A number of Republicans, including Senator Richard Lugar and Representative Henry Hyde, who played a key role in the nuclear deal were present.

E-mail Pramit Pal Chaudhuri: pchaudhuri@hindustantimes.com