India to Take up H-1B Visa Issue with US Lawmakers
Limiting arms sale to Pak will be discussed with visiting delegates
New Delhi: Prospective H-1B visa changes that may affect hundreds of Indian professionals and limiting the supply of defence equipment to Pakistan will be on the agenda for discussions as Delhi seeks to consolidate bipartisan Congressional support for ties with India during the visit of 27 US lawmakers this week. Both matters are critical — India is against the first and keen on the second.
A delegation of 19 US lawmakers will visit New Delhi and Hyderabad this week in a visit organised by the Aspen Institute think tank. Another delegation of eight, led by Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee, will visit New Delhi and Bengaluru around the same time.
27 US lawmakers will visit India this week as part of two delegations
They will meet Union ministers, members of parliament, academics and industry leaders, said persons aware of the programme. They may also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s busy with the poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh.
This visit of Democratic and Republican members of the Senate and the House of Representatives is a demonstration of “bipartisan support in American Congress for strong India-US relations,” said a person familiar with Indo-US ties. The US Congress will play a critical role in either maintaining or changing H-1B visa rules. The visits are aimed at strengthening the India constituency in the US Congress by familiarising lawmakers with India’s priorities and prospects for bilateral ties, indicated a person associated with the visit.
George Holding, Republican chair of the India Caucus in the House of Representatives, and Hank Johnson of the Democratic Party will be among the visitors. The lawmakers will be visiting India about a month after Donald Trump took over as the new President, promising an ‘America First’ foreign policy. The visit is significant, coming ahead of Modi’s proposed visit to the US to meet Trump in mid-2017. Even as the Trump administration’s early move to implement tough anti-immigrant measures triggered uproar within the US, the Indian government is keeping a close watch on the fate of India information technology professionals working in America. The matter has been discussed at the highest levels of the two governments since Jan 20.
Delhi is also closely monitoring protectionist legislative moves. A bill sponsored by California Republican representative Darrell Issa is under review in the House of Representatives.
The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act will require US companies to pay highskilled foreign workers hired under the ‘exempt’ category of the H-1B visa programme at least $100,000 a year against the current minimum of $60,000 among other curbs, thus discouraging such recruitments. Delhi will seek to argue against such changes by conveying to the visiting US lawmakers that India’s IT professionals and IT companies have made significant contributions to the America’s economy, officials said.
Last week, foreign secretary S Jaishankar said in Mumbai that India needs to convey to the US that its relationship with India is linked to outsourcing.