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A Shocking Lobbying Expose!
Numerous American entities are paying millions of dollars to lobby for projects and issues in India, including in sectors like telecom. And the Indian government doesn’t have a clue! India desperately and urgently needs a watertight Lobbying Disclosure Act!
Issue Date - 24/11/2011
 
Coincidences, if traced far enough back, become inevitable – Hineu” That’s how the saying goes. Imagine the quirky coincidences going around. Around September 20 this year, the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) in India rejected Qualcomm Inc.’s application for licenses that would have allowed four of its joint ventures to offer internet services in India. DoT communicated to Qualcomm that the rejection was not only because the American giant “missed the deadline” for submitting the application, but also because licenses could be granted to only one company rather than four different JVs. Worse, Qualcomm was informed that it stood to lose more than $1 billion it had paid while applying for the licenses – as under the license auction rules, no refunds need be given if applications were rejected. Imagine the respite for Qualcomm, when around September 30, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) passed an interim order restraining DoT from doing anything till further orders were received. TDSAT also stayed DoT from appropriating Qualcomm’s initial bid amount. An organisation like COAI – nee, Cellular Operators Association of India, apparently a non-governmental society set up “to deliver the benefits of affordable mobile communication services to the people of India” – too rushed to Qualcomm’s rescue, submitting to DoT why Qualcomm’s license rejection would “only lead to a loss of an important player and will further lead to investment losses.” Might we add, Qualcomm is an associate member of COAI.

On October 10, in a spectacular turnaround, the DoT issued a letter to Qualcomm, offering to grant them the required license for all the areas where Qualcomm had won the spectrum allocation.

On October 20, 2011, a legally required lobbying disclosure report filed with the US Senate (a copy of which is with Business & Economy) revealed that Qualcomm for the months of July, August, September 2011 had paid around $50,000 specifically for lobbying on issues related to, amongst other things, “spectrum licenses in India”. For a company that – as per disclosure reports revealed by the US Senate – had never paid any lobbying money for any issue related to India, the coincidence of the timing of this $50,000 payment was astounding.

Like we mentioned, coincidences, if traced far enough, become inevitable.

 
When the US Chamber of Commerce admits to having spent a mind boggling $589,862,000 since 2006 till date on lobbying on various issues including “bilateral investment treaty negotiations with India; U.S.-India economic relations; India’s cyber security, encryption, and telecommunications security policies,” (copies of the disclosure document are with B&E), how mystifying that this shocking lobbying figure hasn’t raised the hackles of any of the government investigation agencies till date. When Boeing files disclosure reports in the US confirming that it invested $100,882,000 since 2006 and $12,280,000 last year on lobbying for “support for commercial aircraft sales in India” and other select countries, doesn’t the Indian Enforcement Directorate feel the immediate need to demand answers from Boeing on how this lobbying money – or any part of it – was used in India? That too especially when Boeing is the company that, as recent as in June 2011, won “the largest defence deal ever between the United States and America” worth $4.1 billion... Or when AT&T accepts to having spent $11.6 million last year and $21.4 million in the last three years for lobbying on various issues including those related to “telecom trade in India”, why isn’t the famed CBI going out of its way to question AT&T officials on the money trail?

B&E investigations churned up a shockingly expansive list of companies and organisations lobbying for projects and on issues in India – a list that is growing by the month. Isn’t the Indian government worried – by the very sheer size of the moneys involved – that government officers could be manipulated if even a part of the shockingly large lobbying investments were to be misused?

Especially in the Qualcomm case, was any part of the $50,000 given to Indian government officials by Qualcomm or its lobbying agencies? Did not Indian investigation agencies feel it appropriate to send out an enquiry in this regard, more so when all this has happened so close to the 2G scam? The answer clearly is no. If it had not been for a structured B&E investigation throwing up stunning lobbying data from the US Senate data archives, one wouldn’t have even realized that such a ‘coincident’ situation existed. But why is the Indian government not intent on acting or keeping a track on lobbying on a red alert basis?

There could two reasons for this behaviour.

          

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