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