USIBC decides to split from parent body US Chamber of Commerce

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Chamber ousts Mukesh Aghi from president, installs Khush Choksy as acting president.

Vice President Mike Pence addressing the USIBC leadership summit on June 27, 2017. Image Courtesy: twitter

Revolting against continued interference from the US Chamber of Commerce, the board of directors of the US-India Business Council has decided to split from the parent body, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The paper said that at the center was a fight over “turf and independence.”

According to the Post, the most recent battle was over the USIBC’s decision to invite Vice President Mike Pence to its annual leadership summit, which was held on the sidelines of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington late last month. The Chamber reportedly wanted to invite Pence to a different event.

Following the event, the Chamber removed USIBC’s Indian American President Mukesh Aghi and installed Khush Choksy as acting president.

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Aghi, a former chairman and CEO of Steria India and former president of IBM India, has been serving as the USIBC president since 2014.

Mukesh Aghi (Courtesy of YouTube)

The paper said the Chamber pressured Aghi and other top USIBC officials in the run-up to the Modi visit and it fired Aghi and another unnamed top official following the visit. Aghi wrote in a letter that he was dismissed because he refused to report to the Chamber, rather than to the USIBC.

The differences between the Chamber and the USIBC reportedly date back to 2010.

There were speculations that former USIBC president Ron Somers, who has since then founded India First LLC, a strategic communication firm, also had a hostile relationship with the Chamber.

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Choksy, the acting president, is a senior vice president for Middle East and Turkey Affairs at the Chamber.

Chamber President Thomas J. Donohue wrote to the USIBC board that it “cannot ‘separate’ from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce without our concurrence,” as the latter is a mere “program” with “no autonomous existence outside of the U.S. Chamber.” In a separate letter to USIBC members, Donohue said his organization “will not consent to the demands of a group of disaffected individuals.”

The USIBC was founded in 1975, according to the organization, at the request of the governments of the United States and India “to involve the private sectors of both countries in a sustained and meaningful dialogue to advance economic reforms and identify and remove impediments to investment flows to India.”

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Roughly 350 US companies operating in India and Indian firms doing business in the United States are currently members of the USIBC. It’s 29-member board consists of such well-known names as Cisco Executive Chairman John T. Chambers, Warburg Pincus LLC Co-CEO Charles R. Kaye, former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Indian American CEOs Ajay Banga of MasterCard and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo.