Hours after the U.S. issued a rule that did not exempt foreign students from enrolling in just online classes in the autumn, placing many Indian students at risk of falling out of valid immigration status, Indian and U.S. officials held their scheduled virtual Foreign Office Consultations. In addition to discussing the Indo-Pacific, the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the student visa issue was discussed as per a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) readout, but the U.S State Department’s readout made no mention of it.
The two countries had “discussed ways to further enhance mutually beneficial trade and people-to-people ties, including through visa facilitation for students and professionals,” the MEA statement said.
A source told The Hindu that the American officials are “still awaiting implementation guidelines from DHS, and that they will keep the best interests of the students in mind”.
The teams, led by Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla and U.S. Under Secretary of State David Hale, “reviewed the entire gamut of engagements under the India-U.S. Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership , including political, economic, commercial, regional and international cooperation,” as per the MEA statement. “India-U.S. Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership” was a name announced during U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to India in February.
On Tuesday, the two sides also discussed strengthening health partnership. Both countries’ statements made reference to pharmaceuticals and vaccine development.
Deepening cooperation at the United Nations
The Indian statement referred to deepening cooperation at the United Nations “especially during India’s membership of the United Nations Security Council for 2021-2022”. The Hindu had reported recently that the U.S. and India were part of a six-nation group that had raised objections to a draft U.N. Commemorative Declaration that had language associated with the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) thought in it.
The two countries “reaffirmed their commitment to work towards ensuring a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” the Indian statement said.
“The discussions included ongoing threats to the rules-based international order, bilateral and multilateral diplomatic cooperation, maritime security and the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the U.S. statement said.
“In addition, Under Secretary Hale and Foreign Secretary Shringla affirmed the U.S. and Indian visions of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, where all countries can prosper, and agreed to work with other Indo-Pacific partners to bring these visions to reality.” The U.S. frequently refers to China as being a threat to the rules-based international order.
The two countries agreed to stay in touch including via the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue (Defence and Foreign Ministers of both countries) which will be held in India later this year.