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US vice prez Biden to press India on reforms

US vice president Joe Biden will press India on economic and trade reforms and push back against New Delhi’s concerns about immigration during his visit starting Monday.

world Updated: Jul 20, 2013 00:58 IST
Yashwant Raj

US vice president Joe Biden will press India on economic and trade reforms and push back against New Delhi’s concerns about immigration during his visit starting Monday.

Senior administration officials said Friday economic ties will be at the top of Biden’s agenda, and he will be focussing on intellectual property rights protection, trade and investment.

Energy and climate change, defense cooperation and regional cooperation will be the other three broad areas covered by the vice presidents during his talks.

The US expects to hear Indian concerns over the immigration reforms -- currently winding through the legislative process -- but will not have much to offer.

A bill passed recently by the senate overhauls H-1B provision severely impacts Indian tech firms operating in the US such as Infosys, Wipro, TCS and Satyam Mahindra.

Without naming them, a senior administration official said that firms that rely heavily on H-1Bs would have to take “another look at their business model”.

But over all, he added, the bill, which was not law yet, was good for both the US and India.

New Delhi doesn’t quite see it same way and has told the US that temporary relocation of knowledge workers cannot, and must not, be treated as an immigration issue.

The US has also pressed Indian in recent weeks on economic reforms, market access and intellectual property rights protections issues and will continue during Biden’s visit.

Referencing recent FDI changes announced by India, Biden said in a speech on Thursday, “We still have a lot of work to do on a wide range of issues, including the civil nuclear cooperation, a bilateral investment treaty, policies protecting innovation.”

The two sides will also discuss Afghanistan, which has been a matter of discord recently. The vice president will convey to the Indians the US’s position on peace talks three is that the Taliban must break all ties with al Qaeda, give up violence and express allegiance to the Afghan constitution.

Biden was last India in 2008, as a senator. His first visit to India as vice president will also be a first by a vice president in almost two decades. The last was by George HW Bush in 1984.

Biden will be accompanied by his wife Jill Biden on this trip. The vice president will be meeting his counterpart Hamid Ansari, president Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj.

His policy speech, however, will come in Mumbai -- which given the significance being attached by US officials to economic and trade issues -- at the Bombay Stock Exchange.

The vice president will also make a major address from IIT Mumbai, which will be on young women, said administration officials previewing the trip.