New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the US to have a “balanced and farsighted perspective” on admitting skilled Indian workers, in comments that pushed back against President Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric on jobs.
Mr Modi, who met a 26-member bipartisan US Congressional delegation in Delhi on Tuesday, also spoke about the role of skilled Indian talent in enriching the American economy and society. PM Modi’s comments reflected concern that India’s $150 billion IT services industry would suffer if the US curbs H-1B visas it relies on to send software experts to the US on project work.
Welcoming the Congressional representatives to India, he said their visit augurs a good start to bilateral exchanges following the change in the US administration and the Congress.
Mr Modi recalled his positive conversation with President Trump and the shared commitment to further strengthen ties. The PM recognised the Congress’ strong bipartisan support for the India-US partnership, shared his perspective on areas where both countries can work even more closely, a PMO statement said.
“The PM referred to the role of skilled Indian talent in enriching the American economy and society, and urged developing a reflective, balanced and farsighted perspective on movement of skilled professionals,” the statement said. Soon after taking over last month, Mr Trump decided to overhaul the work visa programmes like the H-1B and L-1, a move that will adversely hit the lifeline of Indian tech firms and professionals in the US. At present, 65,000 H1-B visas are issued by the US every year, and Indians account for a major chunk in it.
The proposed H-1B overhaul will result in higher operational costs and shortage of skilled workers for the $110-billion Indian outsourcing industry. Indian IT sector, which contributes 9.3 per cent to the country’s GDP, is also one of the largest private sector employers with 3.7 million employees. The US accounts for nearly 62 per cent of the exports, while EU is the second largest market for the Indian IT services exports.
Recently, a US legislation was introduced to double the minimum wages of H-1B visa holders, a protectionist stance that could spell trouble for IT firms.