Intense Lobbying Clinched Indo-US Nuclear Deal
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The U.S. Congress set aside its much-touted concerns about proliferation when businesses pressured it to sign the recent Indo-US nuclear agreement, reveals Subrata Ghoshroy, a Research Associate in the Science, Technology and Society program at MIT, where he is leading a project called Promoting Nuclear Stability in South Asia.
He says that a major oversight in the public discourse on the nuclear deal is that economic incentives involving the deal have not been subjected to much scrutiny.

Ghoshroy explains that the non-proliferation lobbies in both the US and in India could not match the well-funded effort by the business associations, the Indian embassy, and the political action committees formed by wealthy Indian Americans.

On the one hand, Indian-American lobbyists worked energetically to highlight the commercial potential for the U.S. nuclear industry to participate in the projected build-up of nuclear power in India. They also sponsored numerous trips to India by the American lawmakers and their staff.

And in Washington, the Indian government mounted a multi-faceted lobbying campaign, expending large sums of money -- e.g., $1.3 million on two lobbying firms -- with the aim of pushing the deal through Congress. One of the firms it hired is Barbour, Griffith, and Rogers, which is headed by Robert Blackwill -- a former U.S. ambassador to India.

There were other significant players. These include business lobbies like the Confederation of Indian Industries and the U.S.-India Business Council, and ethnic-based lobbies such as the U.S. India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) and the U.S.-India Friendship Council. The powerful Israeli lobby worked less conspicuously, but made its substantial network available to the relative neophytes in the embassy and the Indian lobbies.

Even the American Jewish Committee expressed its strong support for the deal by sending a letter to influential lawmakers. Collectively, they launched a massive lobbying effort by blanketing Capitol Hill with receptions, meetings and briefings, and the like. The lobbyists worked energetically to highlight the commercial potential for the U.S. nuclear industry to participate in the projected build-up of nuclear power in India. They also sponsored numerous trips to India by the American lawmakers and their staff.

That there is much more at stake behind the nuclear deal is evident from the importance assigned to it by the business leaders in both countries, observes Ghoshroy. For example, the U.S.-India Business Council hired Patton Boggs, reportedly one of the most expensive lobbying firms in Washington, for an undisclosed sum, to push the deal. On the Indian side, the Confederation of Indian Industries is said to have been one of the top international organizations paying for congressional travel between 2000 and 2005, spending some $538,000.

Stumping for the deal and soliciting support from the U.S. business community was none other than Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Deputy Chairman of India's Planning Commission and a close confidant of Prime Minister Singh. They are not related, but both are World Bank alums. In his enthusiasm to woo U.S. business, Dr. Ahluwalia reportedly said that any opening up of the trade would give the United States a "terrific advantage." And referring to a recent order placed by Air India for 68 aircraft from Boeing, he predicted that "the Air India deal is only one example. There will be many others."

According to newspaper reports, the U.S.-India Business Council thought that American business could get a considerable portion of the $20-40 billion that India is planning to spend by 2020. It would also open the door for large-scale sale of military hardware to India. For example, Lockheed Martin could get a contract between $4 billion and $9 billion to supply 126 fighter planes India is planning to buy soon. As if on cue, the New York Times said that the Bush administration is organizing a business delegation to India this fall that is "potentially the largest such mission ever to a single country."

Ghoshroy has been a Senior Defense Analyst at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) since 1998. He is currently on a leave of absence from GAO In addition, he is conducting research on space weapons and international space cooperation.

Ghoshroy was born in India and grew up in Calcutta. He attended Jadavpur University in Calcutta and graduated in1970 with a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree with Honors. He migrated to the United States in 1971 and has been living here continuously since then and became a Naturalized US Citizen in 1987. He obtained master's degree in electrical engineering from Northeastern University, Boston, in 1973 and in public policy from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1975. Mr. Ghoshroy is married to Sreela Ghoshroy, who is a physician with the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Boston. They have one son Rittick (Ricky) - a senior at the Roxbury Latin School in Boston.

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