India wants U.S. to open up more job opportunities for its skilled workers

Senior Indian and American diplomats on Friday went through the checklist of pending bilateral business at hand, ahead of the late June Strategic Dialogue between Foreign Ministers John Kerry and Salman Khurshid.

Over the last two days official sources provided some details of areas in which a push for closure is being made.

From India’s perspective, the U.S. must open up more employment opportunities for its skilled workers, while Washington wanted preferential access for its goods, a move it has initiated with several trading blocs.

At the meeting between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, India referred to immigration reforms now under consideration in the U.S. and sought greater access for highly–skilled non-immigrant categories.

“The U.S. raised issues relating to Preferential Market Access. There was also a detailed discussion on energy-related issues, including reiteration of Indian interest in LNG sales from the U.S,” said official sources in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Another official source said both sides were also interested in the Defence Technology Initiative (DTI) and Westinghouse’s Gujarat nuclear power project.

The U.S. is going through its internal processes as well as engaging with India to sign the DTI. This initiative was hastened after India awarded some major co-development and joint production orders to Israel, Russia and France.

Both sides talked about it in February during a meeting between U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.

The legal framework for the proposed DTI was cleared by Washington late last year. It will enable U.S. companies to come to India with technology in areas such as stealth, advanced radar missiles and next generation night vision devices. U.S. companies will also have the freedom to choose their partners in the private sector.

Mum on defence pacts

On the defence side, the U.S. has stopped talking about its proposal for signing three cooperation agreements — the Logistics Sharing Agreement, Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation — and is now banking on the DTI to get India interested in more defence products.

Mr. Burns this week and Mr. Kerry next month would also track the progress in one of the two U.S. multibillion dollar plan for setting up nuclear energy based power plants. While GE is not yet a contender because its reactors have not been cleared by the U.S. nuclear regulatory authority, Westinghouse has made “considerable progress” in its plans for a series of nuclear reactors in Gujarat, where opposition to the project has started.