Stating that there was no significant move to relax H-1B visa norms for the Indian professionals in the US, the Indian Government informed the Parliament that it remains "closely engaged" with the US Administration and the US Congress on the issue.
"So far, no comprehensive changes have been made to the H-1B visa programme. Government of India remains closely engaged with the US Administration and the US Congress on issues relating to mobility of Indian skilled professionals, including through H-1B visa programme," the Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj told the Lok Sabha (lower house) yesterday during the ongoing winter session of the Parliament.
Responding to a question by Col Sonaram Choudhary, an MP from Barmer, Rajasthan, the minister said the issues of market access in services and fostering of technology and innovation, in which H-1B visa is one element, was discussed in detail during the meetings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US.
Wives and children (crossing 21 years of age) of H-1B visa holders face uncertain futures as the US withdrew their permission to work in the country. The shift in policy by President Donald J Trump is in keeping with his 'Buy American, Hire American: Putting American Workers First' pronouncement made on April 18 this year.
"In our engagements, we emphasised that Indian skilled professionals have contributed to the growth and development of the US economy and have helped the US retain its competitive edge and innovation advantage. They are a big stakeholder in India-US relations," Swaraj said.
"In the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Trump, the two leaders discussed fostering innovation, entrepreneurship and digital partnership. The leaders agreed to intensify the mutually beneficial digital partnership to fully harness their innovation capabilities. Pursuant to the decision reached during the visit, India and the US co-hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
Apprising the House of the last visit paid by Modi to the US, the minister said the Indian Prime Minister paid an official visit to the US on June 25-26, 2017 at the invitation of President Trump. Discussions between the two leaders covered all key areas of India-US Strategic Partnership: defence and security; counter-terrorism; trade and economic issues; energy; people-to-people contacts; and regional and international issues.
Key outcomes and understanding reached were reflected in the Joint Statement issued during the visit, Swaraj said, adding, the leaders agreed to deepen defence and maritime-security cooperation. The two countries agreed to work together on advanced defence equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States.
The leaders agreed to strengthen the India-US partnership in the Indo-Pacific region and committed to a set of common principles to ensure peace and prosperity in the region.
The leaders committed to intensifying their economic cooperation; removing obstacles to growth and jobs creation; and pursuing increased commercial engagement in a manner that advances the principles of free and fair trade.
The two countries will also undertake a comprehensive review of trade relations with the goal of expediting regulatory processes; ensuring that technology and innovation are appropriately fostered, valued, and protected; and increasing market access in goods and services. Swaraj told the lawmakers.
She said Modi and Trump are committed to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation including by expanding information-sharing arrangements. It was decided to establish a new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals. The US decided to designate Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The leaders also affirmed their support for a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
The two sides called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries. They further called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.
The US expressed strong support for India’s early membership of multilateral export control regimes and reaffirmed the support for India’s permanent membership of a reformed UN Security Council.