India has flagged its concerns with the U.S. over much-sought after H1-B visas besides outlining the recent steps it has taken to ease economic concerns raised by American businesses, ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with President Barack Obama.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid met Secretary of State John Kerry in New York on Wednesday and “discussed a range of issues of mutual interest”, including “ongoing discussions on the civil-nuke deal.”
Prime Minister Singh arrives in Washington on Thursday for a meeting with President Barack Obama on Friday.
Mr. Khurshid said the two sides discussed economic concerns raised by both Indian and U.S. industry and ways to work together on enhancing economic relationship.
He outlined steps India has taken to address transfer pricing, retrospective tax regime, notification on safe harbour rules, steps in pension regulation, and opening FDI limits in sectors such as aviation and telecom.
“We brought this to their (US) notice, gave them a list of steps that we have taken and we hope that this will be transmitted back to the CEOs forum in the U.S.,” Mr. Khurshid said.
He said India “looked also very specifically on our concerns which relate to participation in the US economic effort by way of Indian professionals coming to the U.S. temporarily on H1B non-immigrant visas. These are areas that still need to be addressed.
“There is a lot of work that U.S. side has to do with its industry. We have to (work) with them and we have to carry greater conviction with our own industry as well. There is sincere effort on both sides to come together to find a resolution and we are encouraged by the positive response that we have received.”
Mr. Khurshid said further improving bilateral economic ties “requires work” and the two countries have agreed to “work together to see if we can find more satisfactory situation.”
The two sides also discussed issues like climate change and defence.
A senior U.S. State Department official said the two sides talked about their shared concern about the enormous impact of climate change, as well as the role that the US and India can play. They also agreed to continue working to expand their clean energy partnership and discussed efforts to make progress on economic issues.
Mr. Kerry said, “If India can march forward and embrace reforms, they can see real movement on their economy. And they talked about the importance of finding ways to expand trade relations,” the official said.
The Indian side has been arguing that Indian IT professionals are temporary workers and not immigrants.
A proposed bill says all companies with 50 per cent or more employees from outside the U.S. will have to pay a higher visa fee of $10,000 per worker.
At present, the fee is $4,500, and it used to be $2,000 for H-1B and L1 visas till 2010.
The two leaders also touched briefly on other issues, including Syria.
The US has welcomed “any vocal supportive role” India is willing to play, and they talked about their efforts to move forward on expanding their defence relationship.
“And finally, they briefly discussed efforts, ongoing discussions on a civil-nuke deal,” the official added.
Mr. Khurshid also had bilateral meetings with Palestinians, Egypt, Libya and China. With China, Mr. Khurshid said the two sides shared and exchanged information about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s upcoming visit to China.
He also participated in the SAARC Foreign Ministers’ meeting in which the leaders focussed on greater emphasis on connectivity. He said issues like ratification of various agreements were raised and dates have been proposed for a ministerial meeting in February next year.