H-1B visas, Indians’ security to top foreign secretary’s agenda in US
Foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will take up India’s concerns over possible curtailing of H-1B visas and workers’ safety following the Kansas hate crime during his four-day US visit from February 28 to March 3.
South Block officials told Hindustan Times that Jaishankar will interact with acting deputy secretary of state Tom Shannon and other top officials in Washington. The foreign secretary returned from his official trips to Sri Lanka, China and Bangladesh last week with a short stopover in Singapore.
While Jaishankar will seek assurances from the Trump administration over the security of Indians working in the US, one of the main purposes of the visit is to effectively convey New Delhi’s concerns over possible curtailing of H-1B visas issued to skilled Indian workers. The US issues 65,000 H-1B visas to Indians every year for those employed in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) areas.
It is understood that Jaishankar will point out to his counterparts that Indians working in high-technology companies are no cheap labour and are paid as much as their American counterparts. Many Indians working in the US are employed by American tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Tesla, Boeing and a few by US-based Indian companies. The top diplomat will convey that these American firms are competitive due to Indian tech power in STEM areas.
According to a Brookings report, there will be a shortfall of 2.4 million jobs in STEM areas in 2018 alone and this gap will widen if H-1B visas to Indian techies are cut.
South Block officials point out to a report by software industry body Nasscom that says Indian techies in the US support nearly 400,000 jobs and pay $20 billion in taxes annually. Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed India’s concerns over H1-B visas to visiting Congressmen last week.
Jaishankar will also exchange notes with his US counterparts on China, Pakistan as well as stability in Afghanistan. The first meeting of the India-China strategic Dialogue last week was tough with China not yielding on support to India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and designation of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN.
The possibility of Modi visiting Washington this year could also be discussed with the Trump administration. Modi and Trump are expected to meet at July’s G20 summit in Germany.