PM Meets Se­na­tors, Calls for a Bal­anced View on H-1B

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New Delhi: Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi pressed on the United States for a “bal­anced and far­sighted per­spec­tive” on the move­ment of skilled pro­fes­sion­als amid US visa curbs that threaten to wreak havoc on In­dian soft­ware ser­vices com­pa­nies. “Both coun­tries can work even more closely, in­clud­ing in fa­cil­i­tat­ing greater peo­ple-to-peo­ple link­ages that have over the years helped con­trib­ute to each other’s pros­per­ity,” the Prime Min­is­ter said in a state­ment af­ter en­gag­ing with a 26mem­ber bi­par­ti­san del­e­ga­tion of US law­mak­ers.

The del­e­ga­tion, which also met Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Min­is­ter for Elec­tron­ics and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, in the Cap­i­tal on Tues­day, said the two coun­tries were will­ing to work to­gether to sort out trade and eco­nomic is­sues.

Their con­ver­sa­tions were pep­pered with ref­er­ences to the pro­posed changes to the H-1B visa pro­gramme, a work visa that In­dian IT com­pa­nies use to send em­ploy­ees to the US. At least four US law­mak­ers have pro­posed changes to the H-1B or skilled work­ers im­mi­gra­tion process.

Prasad told the del­e­ga­tion he re­spected Amer­ica’s ef­forts to “re­assess and reap­praise” poli­cies be­tween the two coun­tries, but urged it to “keep in mind the value the In­dian tal­ent has con­trib­uted in mak­ing the Amer­i­can econ­omy more com­pet­i­tive”.

He also em­pha­sised that In­dia is ex­pected to be­come a $1-tril­lion dig­i­tal econ­omy in five to seven years, hold­ing much po­ten­tial for US com­pa­nies, such as Ama­zon, Mi­crosoft and Google, in areas such as ecom­merce.

The US del­e­ga­tion, which in­cluded eight Con­gress­men and women from the states of Texas, Mis­souri,

Rhode Is­land, Ge­or­gia, Michi­gan, and North Carolina, jointly ad­dressed re­porters fol­low­ing a 45-minute long dis­cus­sion with the In­dian min­is­ter and of­fi­cials.

Bob Good­latte, the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man lead­ing the del­e­ga­tion, said the two sides took note of the fact that Don­ald Trump was the first US pres­i­dent with­out po­lit­i­cal or gov­ern­ment ex­pe­ri­ence. “He is a busi­ness­man and he likes to do deals and he also wants to do deals with In­dia and other coun­tries around the world. He is also as­sess­ing what deals the United States has done in the past that are good and which ones he thinks may be not so good,” Good­latte told re­porters.

The del­e­ga­tion wants to make sure it pro­vides the right in­puts that would ben­e­fit both the US and In­dia as well as other coun­tries, he said. He (Trump) is a busi­ness­man and he likes to do deals and he also wants to do deals with In­dia and other coun­tries around the world

An es­ti­mated 300,000-350,000 In­dian engi­neers are in the US on H-1B visas. They in­clude em­ploy­ees of In­dia-based IT com­pa­nies such as Tata Con­sul­tancy Ser­vices, In­fosys and Wipro as well as those em­ployed by Amer­i­can multi­na­tion­als in­clud­ing Ac­cen­ture and IBM.

There is grow­ing dis­con­tent among US tech­nol­ogy work­ers against In­dian engi­neers who are con­sid­ered to be cheap labour re­pla- cing their jobs. Trump, dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, promised to fix the H-1B visa pro­gramme that en­ables this trans­fer. Texan Con­gress­woman Sheila Jack­son, who was a part of the US del­e­ga­tion, said both coun­tries are con­cerned about “the youth bulge and the im­por­tance of train­ing our young peo­ple… (and) will work to­gether to cre­ate those op­por­tu­ni­ties for them and cer­tainly tech­nol­ogy is a method of do­ing so”.

A del­e­ga­tion of In­dian IT com­pa­nies, led by the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Soft­ware and Ser­vices Com­pa­nies, is ex­pected to dis­cuss the visa is­sue with US law­mak­ers this week. Other is­sues dis­cussed at the meet­ing with the US del­e­ga­tion re­lated to copy­right and piracy. Prasad told the del­e­ga­tion that the In­dian Cab­i­net had ap­proved a new IPR pol­icy that fol­lows in­ter­na­tional best prac­tices. On the is­sue of piracy, he said In­dia was re­in­forc­ing its ar­chi­tec­ture.


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