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Sunday, January 25, 2009

India’s stealth lobbying against Holbrooke's brief

Whatever the case, the evidence that India was able to successfully lobby the Obama transition in the weeks before it took office to ensure Holbrooke's mission left them and Kashmir out is testament to both the sensitivity of the issue to India as well as the prowess and sophistication of its Washington political and lobbying operation.

"The Indians freaked out at talk of Bill Clinton being an envoy to Kashmir," said Daniel Markey, a South Asia expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The reason they were so worried is they don't want their activities in Kashmir to be equated with what Pakistan is doing in Afghanistan."

"They [India] are the big fish [in the region]," Markey added. "They don't want to be grouped with the 'problem children' in the region, on Kashmir, on nuclear issues. They have a fairly effective lobbying machine. They have taken a lot of notes on the Israel model, and they have gotten better. But you don't want to overstate it. Some of the lobbying effort is obvious, done through companies, but a lot of it is direct government to government contact, people talking to each other. The Indian government and those around the Indian government made clear through a variety of channels because of the Clinton rumors and they came out to quickly shoot that down."

Once Holbrooke's name was floated, the Indian lobbying campaign became even more intense. "The Indians do not like Holbrooke because he has been very good on Pakistan... and has a very good feel for the place" said one former U.S. official on condition of anonymity. "The Indians have this town down."


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