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Kansas shooting: Here’s why India’s reaction to Kuchibhotla’s killing was muted

Experts say India’s reaction was guided by more pressing concerns of the US putting curbs on H-1B visas, the lifeblood of the Indian IT industry

india Updated: Mar 15, 2017 09:15 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Srinivas Kuchibhotla,H-1B,Kansas killing
Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s wife Sunayana Dumala at his funeral in Hyderabad on Tuesday. (HT photo)

India’s unusually cautious reaction to the apparent racially motivated killing of engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in the United States last week has raised eyebrows.

New Delhi’s response has been measured, markedly devoid of any strong outburst despite its national becoming the first possible victim of a hate crime in US President Donald Trump’s tenure.

But experts say India’s reaction is guided by more pressing concerns of the US putting curbs on H-1B visas, which are the lifeblood of the Indian IT industry.

During his presidential campaign, Trump had promised to bring back software jobs from abroad.

This can spell doom for Indian firms, who receive 60% of all H-1B visas, and account for a $150 billion-dollar industry. Apart from the economic ramifications, the IT sector has brought name, fame and a certain clout for the Indian diaspora in the US – all of which would disappear if the industry choked.

To address these concerns, foreign secretary S Jaishankar is in the US to drive home the point that Indian skilled workers give critical competitive advantage to American companies.

India’s careful response to the apparent race attack is a departure from past instances. When scores of Indians were attacked in Australia in 2009, the government reacted with fury. Then foreign minister SM Krishna released a strong statement, the Centre issued a warning to Indians travelling to Australia and the government called the Australian ambassador to seek an explanation.

This time around, India took note of the intent in an US embassy statement in New Delhi in investigating the case and two sides decided to have a discussion on issues related to the safety of Indian nationals in the US.

US President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of the US Congress on Tuesday in the House chamber of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. ( AFP photo )

But much to India’s relief, Trump began his first address to a joint session of the US Congress on Tuesday night with remarks denouncing the killing of an Indian engineer in Kansas and said America condemns “hate and evil” in all forms.

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” Trump said.

The crackdown on H-1B visa system cannot be dismissed as a mere campaign rhetoric of President Trump. First, Trump is driving a nationalist agenda and for him walking the talk of campaign days has become an imperative to prove he meant business and ‘America First’. That makes India’s situation unenviable.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, was with his friend at a bar in Olathe town of Kansas last Wednesday when he was shot by a navy veteran, Adam Purinton. The attacker allegedly yelled “get out of my country” before he let fired.

First Published: Mar 01, 2017 14:18 IST