No official confirmation from US on H-1B cap for Indians: Centre
There are no immediate plans to impose caps on H-1B work visas in retaliation for New Delhi’s data localisation plans though India and the US will have to contend with a full plate of trade-related issues during secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s visit next week, people familiar with developments said.
Trade tensions between the two sides have increased in recent weeks, with India imposing higher tariffs on some American goods on June 16 after the US withdrew export benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme. The US has opposed India’s data storage plans that could hit firms such as Wal-Mart and Amazon.
“We are not aware of such plans,” a person familiar with developments said in the wake of a Reuters report that the US is considering a 15% cap on H-1B visas for countries that force foreign companies to store data locally. India is the largest beneficiary of the programme, with about 70% of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued each year going to Indians.
Asked about the H-1B visa issue at a regular news briefing on Thursday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We have not heard anything officially from the US government on this matter.
“We remain engaged with the US administration...and we have emphasised time and again at all our high-level interactions the contributions of Indian skilled professionals to the growth and development of the US economy.”
Kumar said consultations are underway within the Indian government and between the government and industry on data localisation or the storage of private data of users by foreign firms. The use of such data will have to be balanced with “national priorities and sensitivities,” he said.
“India’s position is in line with global best practices. We will remain engaged with the US on this matter and see how we can dispel any misconceptions on data localisation which they might have,” he added.
The Indian side is looking to Pompeo’s visit during June 25-27 – the first high-level engagement with the US since the general elections – as an opportunity to clear the air on differences over trade-related issues, which are in marked contrast to the robust cooperation on strategic security and defence issues.
Kumar said Pompeo’s visit will be “an important opportunity for both sides to explore ways to further strengthen the India-US strategic partnership and continue the high-level engagement on matters of mutual interest”.
Besides holding talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar, Pompeo will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on June 26, the main working day of his visit.
The external affairs ministry sought to play down trade-related differences, with Kumar saying, “In a relationship that is as diverse and as deep as the one we have with the US, that there will be certain issues which will be on the table...The overall direction of the relationship remains very positive.”
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