India has added a bipartisan Washington firm led by a longtime Democratic lobbyist to its roster of influence firms as the country faces a more critical administration in Washington and one of the worst outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic at home.
The Indian Embassy in Washington has hired Ferox Strategies for $20,000 per month to provide “strategic counsel, tactical planning and government relations assistance on policy matters” to US government and institutions. The contract began April 8 and lasts through June 30, with the option to renew for another three months. Politico first reported news of the contract.
Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu signed the contract with Ferox founder Cristina Antelo. Antelo is registered to lobby on the account along with Mark Williams, a former chief of staff to former Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Mike Conaway (R-Texas).
Antelo started the firm in 2018 after spending eight years with the Podesta Group. India is Ferox’s third foreign client, after Arnold & Porter hired the firm in January to help lobby on its million-dollar contracts with Argentina and Ecuador.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a good relationship with President Donald Trump, while the Joe Biden campaign criticized India’s crackdown in Kashmir last year. The new administration’s renewed focus on human rights has raised concerns with Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
The new hire also comes as India copes with a climbing COVID-19 outbreak. The country has repeatedly broken daily records of new cases. India reported 382,315 new cases and 3,780 deaths Wednesday, according to Reuters. The Biden administration has restricted travel from India starting this week.
The US has already sent medical supplies promised by President Biden to the country, including much-needed oxygen and personal protective equipment. The administration also promised to send doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to countries like India facing outbreaks, but they’ve yet to be produced. Modi and other world leaders have been asking the US to do more to provide vaccines around the world, reported The Washington Post.
Ferox joins four other firms registered to lobby for the Indian government.
The embassy recently renewed its $700,000-a-year contract with BGR Government Affairs for another six months, through Sept. 30. The firm has represented the Indian government since 2005. Founding Partner Edward Rogers registered as a foreign agent on the account this August.
Also lobbying for India are Cornerstone Government Affairs and Cornerstone subcontractor DiNino Associates. Cornerstone has lobbied for the embassy since December 2019. Its latest contract, for $40,000 per month, was set to expire at the end of February. A Cornerstone lobbying filing shows the firm contacted Congress regarding the COVID-19 epidemic, farmer protests and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh‘s Sept. 15 speech to parliament blaming China for deadly clashes in June 2020 between Chinese and Indian soldiers in the Kashmir region.
More recently, the embassy hired The Williams Group in October for $90,000 for six months through March 31. Registered to lobby on the account are firm founder and president Michael Williams, who served as special assistant for legislative affairs under President Bill Clinton, and subcontractor Jennifer Stewart, a former aide to Congressional Black Caucus members Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), now the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas).