Jim Pickard in London and James Fontanella-Khan in New Delhi
A US firm which pays Tony Blair’s consultancy for advice has taken on Dow Chemicals as a client, prompting anger in India.
New York-based Teneo has been giving public relations advice to Dow, which is still controversial in India because it owns Union Carbide, the company responsible for the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster.
Mr Blair, the former prime minister, has been paid by Teneo since it was launched last summer by Douglas Band, a former adviser to Bill Clinton
The group, which carries out public relations, private equity and banking, has offices in Beijing, Dubai, Dublin, Hong Kong, London, Toronto, Washington DC and Zurich.
“I am shocked, I can’t believe this is the case,” said an Indian government official who asked not to be named. “This isn’t going to go down well with the people of India.”
Although Dow did not own Union Carbon at the time of the accident occurred – with the deaths of at least 8,000 people – it has been criticised by the Indian government for not paying higher compensation.
Relations between London and New Delhi have been strained ahead of the 2012 Olympics because Dow is one of the sponsors to the event, which prompted the Indian government to threaten a boycott of the games.
Activists in Bhopal said Mr Blair’s indirect involvement as well as Dow’s sponsorship of the London Olympics would help to boost the reputation of the company, which has been tarnished by its corporate link to one of the worst industrial accidents in history.
They are already furious that David Cameron, the prime minister, said he could not see a problem with the Dow sponsorship.
Rachna Dhingra, a member of Bhopal Group of Information and Action, said the lack of criticism from both Mr Blair and Mr Cameron was “very sad and indeed shameful”.
Dow believes there is widespread misinformation about its link to Bhopal, which was owned by a subsidiary of Union Carbide when the tragedy occurred in 1984. Dow did not buy Union Carbide until 2001. Yet the Indian government has demanded a much larger settlement from the chemicals company.
George Hamilton, Dow’s vice-president of Olympic operations, in March described the company’s critics as “irresponsible“. He said:
“This issue is not our issue. We’re not going to be bullied by activists or politicians who want to get involved in this, whatever their driver may be. We’re not going to allow that to make us waver from our commitment to the Olympic movement.”
A spokesman for Mr Blair, who sits on Teneo’s advisory board, refused to comment on Dow, saying only that: “It is already publicly known that TB Associates works with Teneo.”
Teneo declined to comment. However, one person familiar with the company insisted that it was only a “general adviser” to Dow and had not been involved with issues around Bhopal.
Mr Clinton was also a paid adviser to Teneo – chairing its advisory board – until February, when he ended the arrangement. The former US president is now an Read more