The first visit by a U.S. Vice President to India in nearly 30 years will be marked by an intensifying disagreements over economic policy, it became apparent this week, as senior administration officials suggested that Joseph Biden would flag the U.S.’ interest in seeing further economic liberalisation in certain Indian sectors and explain why U.S. policies on H-1B visas would be beneficial to Indian companies.
Mr. Biden, who will kick off a four-day visit to India on Monday beginning with a symbolic visit to the Gandhi Smirti Museum in New Delhi, will “raise the concerns” that Washington has regarding “further [increasing] American investment in India” and “about India’s need to provide adequate protection of intellectual property in key sectors [and] the importance of a stable and predictable tax regime.”
Simultaneously, officials said in a background call with media here, Mr. Biden would underscore the Obama administration’s view on immigration reform policies, that the bill in the U.S. Senate that dramatically raises the H-1B visa application fee and introduces other tightening measures on firms employing a bulk of workers under this category actually “will very much benefit Indian workers seeking employment in the U.S.”
An official said that this bill would “nearly triple the number of H-1B visas for skilled workers,” and this means if the bill passes into law then Indian university graduates would be able to work on a temporary basis in the U.S., “gaining new skills that in some cases they will bring back to India.”
However, the White House admitted, some firms that had structured their workforce to “rely heavily on H-1B employees” would, under the terms of this bill, have to “take another look at certain aspects of their business model.”
Overall Mr. Biden’s trip, which will include meetings with Indian counterpart Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with President Pranabh Mukherjee and Sushma Swaraj of the BJP on July 23, will focus on four areas of cooperation: economic cooperation, energy and climate, defence and regional cooperation in South and East Asia.
Under the umbrella of energy cooperation, the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement will remain “firmly in [Mr. Biden’s] crosshairs,” during the visit, it was made clear. The U.S. will, notwithstanding the efforts New Delhi has made to facilitate progress with the pre-early works agreement with Westinghouse, explain that it still perceives the “liability problem,” as “an issue.”
Accompanied by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who will seek to infuse a new energy into bilateral collaborations in health and education cooperation while she is here, Mr. Biden will emphasise the people-to-people and business connections between India and the U.S., officials noted, and his agenda will include meetings with numerous corporate leaders, a policy speech at the Bombay Stock Exchange on July 24, and a women’s empowerment event IIT Mumbai on July 25.