Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shakes hands with Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar at the State Department in Washington. (Photo: AP)
Washington: The US has assured India that the H-1B visas issue was not a priority for it and would be part of the larger immigration reforms package that the new Trump administration is working on.
The assurance came amid an ongoing debate in the US and reported moves by the Trump Administration to bring out an executive order to curtail the use of H-1B visas.
"There was a sense that there is recognition of the contribution of the Indian tech sector. Certainly this is not very much...not a priority of the government. They are concerned with the immigration issue...most of the issues are quite different," visiting Commerce Secretary Rita Teotia told reporters at a news conference in Washington.
"Nevertheless when it is addressed, it would be part of the overall immigration package," Teotia said. Teotia, along with Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, is currently in the US meeting top officials of the Trump administration and the Congressional leadership.
India has been strongly taking up the case of H-1B visas with the Trump administration.
During their meetings with the top administration officials, including Commerce Secretary William Ross, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and with the Congressional leadership, the visiting Indian officials conveyed that H-1B is a "category of trade and services" which actually helps American economy to be more competitive.
"If the Trump Administration's intention is to bring back American companies to America and attract more foreign investment in America and therefore have more growth in the near term, then it was important growing America remains competitive. So, there would actually be (a) growing need for this partnership," Jaishankar said.
H-1B, he noted, was a trade and business issue and not an economic issue, even though in the US context it was seen as part of the immigration basket.
"What I would remind you that the President himself in his address to the Congress preferred a merit-based approach to the subject. We heard across the board a lot of respect expressed for Indian skills in the United States," Jaishankar said.
"We have certainly made our point quite forcefully both in the Congress and the Administration. We believe it has been met with a degree of understanding," he said in response to a question.