New Delhi: The US should not obstruct the flow of talent from India as it is an important part of the economic cooperation and almost acts as a strategic bridge between the two countries, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said, emphasising the importance of H-1B visas, popular among Indian IT professionals, for the bilateral ties.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper hosted Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for the second 2+2 dialogue in Washington DC on Wednesday. Jaishankar and Singh left the US on Thursday.
“In some of the meetings, I sort of underlined our interest in ensuring that the flow of talent from India to the United States should not be obstructed and no unreasonable legislative provisions should constrain that. That was the subject which also came up when I was at the White House,” Jaishankar told a group of Indian reporters here on Thursday, a day after the conclusion of the second 2+2 dialogue.
The External Affairs Minister was referring to his discussion at the White House with US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.
Thereafter, he and Singh made a courtesy call to US President Donald Trump. The Oval Office meeting with Trump lasted for over 30 minutes.
“The point I was making, in a sense is bigger than legislation. I mentioned legislation only because there are some legislative moves right now. Whether those are relevant or not, or successful or not is a different matter,” he said responding to a question on H-1B.
The H-1B visa is one of the most popular ones for foreigners visiting the US for business or trade purpose.
The US government has said that it is planning to curb the distribution of the H-1B visa to Indians. While the Trump administration is yet to take a final decision on this matter, it could affect the Indian IT professionals.
India has been the only country that takes 70 per cent of the 85,000 H-1B visas applied annually. The H-1B visa is crucial for the IT sector in India.
“The bottom line is this: that today if you look at the totality of our ties and we will look at where we have strong economic synergies, where we have strong technology promptings, these are really based on the flow of talent,” Jaishankar said.
“To me, the flow of talent is not just to resolve matter. The flow of talent is part of our economic cooperation. It is in a sense almost strategic bridge between us. So, I cannot overstate the importance of the flow of talent for Indo-American ties. That was a point I make that look, this is important for you, it is important for us. It’s important for the relationship. So let’s work together to make sure this stays sort of open and vibrant and active,” he said.
In addition to his 2+2 ministerial, bilateral and the White House meetings, Jaishankar also met leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Affairs Committee including its Chairman Senator James E Risch and Ranking Member Senator Bob Menendez.
On the eve of the ministerial, he also met some of the key members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee including Congressmen Ami Bera and Brad Sherman from the Democratic party and Ted Yoho and Francis Rooney from the Republican party.
Jaishankar said the issue of visa and related legislations also came up during his meetings at the Congress.
There was some discussion on CAATSA, he said.
“Essentially, we source equipment from different countries and we have always maintained and nurtured that flexibility, the freedom to exercise that option. So, I think, people need to understand that,” he said in response to a question.