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Home / World News / Joe Biden vows to accord ‘high priority’ to ties with India if elected

Joe Biden vows to accord ‘high priority’ to ties with India if elected

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has said the United States and India were “natural partners” and if elected the relationship will be a “high priority” for his administration.

world Updated: Jul 02, 2020 22:25 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president(Reuters photo)

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has said the United States and India were “natural partners” and if elected the relationship will be a “high priority” for his administration.

The former vice-president also said he will end the temporary suspension of H-1B visas ordered by President Donald Trump last week ostensibly to ensure American had the first crack at jobs becoming available as the US reopens from Covid-19 lockdown. But the visa programme, of which Indians are the largest beneficiaries, has been in the crosshairs of immigration hawks in his administration.

India and the US are “natural partners”, Biden said at a virtual fundraiser Wednesday, using a phrase for describing the relationship that has evolved from “natural allies”, as first used by late Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Former US president George W Bush switched in “partners” for “allies”.

“That partnership, a strategic partnership, is necessary and important in our security,” Biden said and proceeded to give a more expansive account of his role in promoting the relationship, such as securing the civil nuclear deal that ended India’s isolation from the community of nuclear states.

“I was proud to play a role more than a decade ago in securing congressional approval for the US India Civil Nuclear Agreement,” he said, adding, “which is a big deal.” It was indeed, and has remained so, setting a high bar for everything that has followed in the relationship.

“Helping open the door to great progress in our relationship and strengthening our strategic partnership with India was a high priority in the Obama-Biden administration and will be a high priority if I’m elected president,” the former vice-president said, and added, “India needs to be a partner in the region for our safety(’s) sake and quite frankly for theirs.”

Biden visited India as vice-president in July 2013, with his wife Jill Biden.

At a virtual town-hall with Asian American and Pacific Islanders, the former vice-president came out clearly agains Trump’s suspension of H-1Bs. “He (Trump) just ended H-1B visas the rest of this year. That will not be in my administration,” he said in response to a questions.

People on this visa “have built this country”, Biden said.

This will come as a huge relief for the Indians hoping to work in the United States and US and Indian companies that hire them on H-1B. The United States issues 85,000 of these temporary non-immigrant visas for high-skill jobs every year, and more than 70% go to Indians.

Critics of the programme have argued H-1B visas are being used to bring cheaper labor from abroad and displace Americans. The Trump administration stepped up scrutiny of the programme soon after Trump came into offie in January 2017 and issued an executive order titled “Buy American, Hire American”.

A larger reform of the programme was announced along with the suspension last week. It would include doing away with the electronic lottery system to pick successful H-1B petitions from among the hundred and thousands that are filed. Selection will be based on those getting the highest salary. Other changes are also in the offing, but there is no timeline for it yet.

The vice-president went on to speak of other immigration issues as the plight of undocumented immigrants brought as children, called Dreamers. Many of them are of Indian origin.

“On day one (of his presidency), I’m going to send a legislative immigration reform bill to congress to provide a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants who contribute so much to this country,” he said.

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