India hopes the US’ review of non-immigration visa will take into account the long term benefits of H1-B visa for American competitiveness and not affect the provision of essential services at this “critical hour” of the COVID-19 outbreak, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said.
In a virtual address to NASSCOM, Shringla said there is some anxiety among Indians and industry about restrictions on H1-B visa as part of the US administration’s review of their non-immigrant visa regime.
“As you are aware, the government of India has closely consulted all stakeholders and engaged with the US government on this issue. Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) had taken this up, along with the issue of the totalisation agreement, during the visit of President (Donald) Trump to India in February 2020,” Shringla said.
Noting that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US and the attendant impact on the US economy has led to a change in the situation, he said, “We need to adopt a realistic yet effective approach. Accordingly, our approach has been to work at the diplomatic level and deal with each specific issue one at a time.
“We were able to intervene early on in our lockdown with the US government on the issue of temporary relief for H1-B visa holders whose visas were expiring in this period, on a case-by-case basis.”
In engagements with the US, India has emphasized that this has been a mutually-beneficial partnership which should be nurtured, he said.
The prime minister had also underlined during President Trump’s visit to India that “the most important foundations of this special friendship between India and America are our people-to-people relations”, Shringla said in his address to the the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), a trade association of Indian Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing industry.
“Be it professionals or students, Indian diaspora has been the biggest contributor to this in the US,” he said.
India has continued to stress that the economic and trade linkages are a strong pillar of the Indo-US strategic partnership, particularly in technology and innovation domains, the Foreign Secretary said.
High skilled Indian professionals working in the US through H1-B and related non-immigration visa regimes bridge the crucial skill gap and provide a technological and competitive edge to the US companies, Shringla said.
“We have also highlighted that high-skilled Indian professionals are engaged in the fight against COVID across various fields including doctors, nurses, tech workers developing solutions for companies fighting the epidemic,” he said.
“We hope the review of non-immigration visa by the US government will take into account the long term benefits of H1B visa for US competitiveness and not affect the provision of essential services at this critical hour,” Shringla said.
He also said that the pandemic has offered a peek into what the future is likely to look like, and it will most probably be dominated by contactless deliveries, increased dependence on e-commerce, heightened use of IT-enabled services for performing some of the routine functions, and enhanced use of innovative-technology led solutions for resolving some of the most complex challenges.
“In India, we are distinctly aware of the disruptions that this pandemic has caused in the global supply chains. But our response to this disruption is far from turning isolationist or protectionist,” he said.
“We are well aware that while globalization is here to stay, its norms, however, may become different. The idea is, therefore, to make our systems and our markets highly adaptive to the changing scenarios,” Shringla said.
India is cognizant of the potential role it can play in a world that is looking at highly uncertain times, he said.
“To this extent, and to induce reliability into our systems, we are fast developing our production and supply chains to fill in the gaps in the global supply chains, where we have the potential to do so,” he said.
Asserting that India’s prowess in the IT sector has been established over the last two decades, he said the IT and BPM sectors of India account for over 55% of the total global outsourcing market.
In the government, the focus has been to increase the use of technology and digitalisation to reform governance, and increase financial inclusion to strengthen the social and economic standing of our people, Shringla said.