NEW DELHI: India’s foreign secretary S Jaishankar and commerce secretary Rita Teotia said today that they conveyed India’s concerns on immigration and HIB visas to several senior Trump admin figures in Washington and were assured in return that India remains a privileged partner in the Trump era.
The two Indian secretaries met several US administration representatives including US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, homeland security secretary John F Kelly, national security advisor Lt Gen H R McMaster, speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan and senior members of the Congress.
In a press conference at the Indian Embassy in the US, the top Indian officials felt that the US Congress has been supportive of the relationship between the two countries.
“It was a full-spectrum discussion. Overall there is a strong sense of optimism about the relationship between the two countries,” said Jaishankar.
The H1B visa issue came up at a number of meetings the Indian delegation had with US secretaries, Jaishankar said. “H1B is a trade and economic issue for India, while it is an immigration issue in the US. We made our point forcefully both to Congress leaders and to administration functionaries and our concerns were met with a degree of understanding,” he Jaishankar.
The US administration was told that the H1B visa is a category of trade service that enables the American economy. “If the Trump administration’s intention is to bring back US companies and attract more investment in America, then it is important that a growing America remains competitive,” said the Indian foreign secretary.
“There is recognition of the contribution made by the Indian tech sector. But H1B is not a priority for the US government in relation to the immigration issue. Nevertheless, when it is addressed it can be part of the overall immigration package,” commerce secretary Rita Teotia said.
The murder of Indian techie Srinivas Kochibhotla in Kansas figured in many of the discussions that Jaishankar had with US administration members. “It was the act of an individual. The US justice system will bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Jaishankar.
He said concerns raised by the killing were addressed in US President Donald Trump’s address to Congress. “The US administration sees the issue with a deep sorrow and regret. American society as a whole does not support of it,” Jaishankar said.
“Congress has been extraordinarily supportive of the Indo-US relationship. With the change in the political landscape, we thought it was important to engage them,” said Jaishankar. “It is natural that when a new administration comes in, it will take stock of the situation and set new targets. But we saw a lot of goodwill.”
The Indian secretaries acknowledged that with the advent of the Trump presidency, there has been a change in the US administration but there is also continuity from the past. “There are changes in the approach of the administration but India is seen as a solid economic partner. The Trump administration looks at the world differently. They have new targets and new ambitions. We have to develop the opportunities that are is available,” said the foreign secretary.
However, he added, “We are not starting from scratch. All three previous US administrations were different from each other, but Indo-US ties grew under each of them. We need to look at new possibilities of cooperation,” Jaishankar said.