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US: Ex-India envoy Wisner quits AIG
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | March 07, 2009 10:10 IST
Ambassador [Images] Frank G Wisner, the erstwhile US envoy to India, who for years -- as vice-chairman, external affairs for American International Group -- was the face of this global insurance conglomerate--which is now being bailed out by the US government to the tune of $150 billion -- in India and was largely responsible for pushing for New Delhi's [Images] opening up of the insurance sector to foreign investors, has quit AIG and joined the top-notch lobbying firm of Patton Boggs, which was recently retained by India to lobby its interests on Capitol Hill and in the new Obama [Images] Administration.
At Patton Boggs, which is being paid over $50,000-a-month by the government of India, and is also the lobbying firm for the US-India Business Council, and was retained by the USIBC over two years to push for the consummation of the US-India civilian nuclear deal, Wisner, will head up the India account along with his brother Graham Wisner, an associate at the firm and Anurag Varma, a partner, who focuses on promoting US-India trade issues.
Wisner, who was Ambassador to India from 1994-1997, and also had served as US envoy to Zambia, Egypt [Images] and the Philippines and when he retired after four decades at the State Department during a career that spanned the tenures of eight presidents, held the rank of Career Ambassador -- one of the highest ranks of the US Foreign Service.
He told Rediff India Abroad that he had been considering leaving AIG for some time "and I made the decision because there was not a great deal I could still do for AIG, which has been having its own troubles and given the fact that AIG is selling itself off".
He said he was looking forward to "doing everything I can of constructive advantage for the Indian portfolio," in his new avatar at Patton Boggs.
The company stated that Wisner, "one of the nation's most respected diplomats," at Patton Boggs, "will provide clients with strategic global advice concerning business, politics, and international law from the firm's Washington and New York City offices."
"He plans to use his wealth of diplomatic experience to assist clients seeking a stronger global presence," the company said, and added, "The firm looks to Ambassador Wisner to use his expertise in West Asia and India to assist its American and international clients."
Stuart M Pape, the managing partner at Patton Boggs, said, "It's a real coup for the firm to have Ambassador Wisner -- one of the most experienced and highly regarded diplomats -- join our ranks," and predicted that he would "play a pivotal role in enhancing our thriving international practice."
"His in-depth knowledge of global politics and the international financial world is a huge asset for our clients," Pape added.
After graduating from Princeton in 1961, Wisner joined the State Department as a foreign service office, and his first posting was Algiers immediately after it won independence from France [Images]. In 1964, he went to Vietnam where he spent four years at the apex of the war.
Wisner worked as a senior diplomat in Tunisia and Bangladesh before returning to Washington in 1974 to become the director of plans and management in the Bureau of Public Affairs. He then joined the President's Interagency Task Force on Indo-China, the agency responsible for evacuating and settling nearly one million refugees.
Later, he was named the director of the Office of Southern African Affairs and worked closely with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to launch negotiations with Zimbabwe and Namibia. He served as deputy executive secretary of the State Department during the Carter Administration.
Wisner was senior deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs from 1982 to 1986, a period of intense conflict leading up to the end of Apartheid in South Africa [Images].
The former chairman and current member of the board of the USIBC, who was directly responsible for recruiting its current mercurial president Ron Somers, Wisner is also a member of the US-Russia Business Council, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's business committee and several other nonprofit groups.
Wisner said he was elated to join Patton Boggs, a firm who he described as providing "exceptional advice and legal support to governments, corporations and individuals on issues of international strategy, regulation and business."