US- India relations
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
U.S. thought India might seize PoK after ’71 victory
The U.S. government had thought that the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi might order an attack on West Pakistan to capture Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir after India’s operation to create Bangladesh got over, recently declassified CIA documents say.
As per CIA reports and minutes of high-level meetings in Washington on Indo-Pak. tensions, it was clear that the U.S. government was readying a strategy should India smash military power of West Pakistan. The then U.S. President Richard Nixon’s National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger discussed various possibilities due to deteriorating Indo-Pak. ties in the wake of India’s military offensive in East Pakistan. But, some top security officials in Washington felt the possibility of India launching a strike on West Pakistan was remote.
At one of the meetings of Washington’s Special Action Group, the then CIA Director Richard Holmes said, “It is reported that prior to terminating the present hostilities, Mrs. Gandhi intends to attempt to eliminate Pakistan’s armour and air force capabilities,” as per papers which are part of nearly 12 million documents CIA declassified last week.
According to the documents, though Nixon had “warned India to cut off economic aid in case of war in East Pakistan, the U.S. administration was clueless on how to implement it.
“Both the President and the Secretary of State have warned the Indians that we will ‘cut off’ economic aid in case of war. But do we know what that means? No one has looked at the consequences or examined the means of implementing a cut off,” Mr. Kissinger told a meeting of top defence and CIA officials on August 17, 1971.
1988-98: The Bush-era
The one-term, four-year Presidency of George HW Bush set the stage for a post- Cold War realignment of US-India relations, his administration navigating through a thicket of contentious trade and commerce issues amid the nuclear weaponisation on the sub-continent.
Bush came to the White House in 1988 even as India plunged into a period of political uncertainly after the Bofors scandal led to the emergence of a National Front government and the emergence of the Mandal and Mandir imbroglios. As a former CIA director, US ambassador to China, and a two-term vice-president under Ronald Reagan (during which time he visited India to attend Mrs Indira Gandhi’s funeral), Bush was familiar with the region. He recognised the decreased salience of Pakistan as a frontline state after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and in his second year in office, he declined to certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear weapon, a step that began US downgrading of ties with Islamabad, although New Delhi believed it was too little too late because Pakistan had already crossed the nuclear red line, taking advantage of the Reagan administration’s indulgence of it.
Still, defence ties between Washington and New Delhi, ramped up during the Reagan era with first visits to India by defence secretaries Caspar Weinberger and Frank Carlucci, began to look up with the visit to US in July 1989 by K C Pant, the first visit to Washington by an Indian defence minister after Y B Chavan in 1964 (current defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be in Washington this weekend). This, despite the usual niggles: The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project doddered along and the Bush administration kvetched over the potential misuse of US technologies, including the Cray supercomputer and a Combined Acceleration Vibration Climatic Test System, to enhance India’s nuclear weapons programme.
It was another matter that Washington had pretty much slept through Pakistan’s nuclearisation, mostly through theft and skullduggery. In 1989, Bush sent his National Security Advisor Robert Gates to New Delhi and Islamabad to defuse a military confrontation that Washington believed could lead to a nuclear flashpoint — the only time the US has involved itself directly in an India-Pakistan spat. But the Gates mission also made it clear that Washington no longer backed a UN plebiscite as a preferred way to solve the Kashmir issue, and instead supported bilateral talks in accordance with the Simla Agreement.
Washington and New Delhi continued to squabble on the trade front over sums and issues that are pitiful and trivial in today’s terms. In what came to be known as a Super 301 dispute, the Bush administration came down on New Delhi because of its $ 690million trade surplus with Washington, clubbing it with Japan (which had a surplus of billions), in the same way the Trump administration often clubs India with China.
But the biggest development on the US-India front during the Bush years was the decision by New Delhi to allow refuelling during the Gulf War of US military planes in Mumbai. This went on secretly for several months through the V P Singh and Chandrasekhar governments till a TOI photographer, Sudharak Olwe, spotted a US plane refuelling and the photo made it to the front pages the next day.
Visits of Indian Prime Ministers to the USA
2015: Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley
Preparing for Mr Modi’s visit
The email gives an insight into the preparations done by the US for a successful visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Silicon Valley in 2015.
- US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia wrote an email to John Podesta on making the trip successful.
- Biswal also wrote to checka if former US president Bill Clinton can co-host a clean energy event with Modi at Stanford.
- Biswal in email said there is lot of interest in Indian govt to focus on two themes for Modi's Silicon Valley visit.
The latest batch of emails released by WikiLeaks from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta gives an insight into the planning done by the Obama administration to ensure a successful visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Silicon Valley in 2015.
More than a month and half before Modi was to visit Silicon Valley in the last week of September, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal wrote an email to John Podesta, who had by then joined the Clinton campaign, seeking his advice and input on making the trip successful and also checking if former US president Bill Clinton can co-host a clean energy event with Modi at Stanford.
In an email to Podesta dated August 12, Biswal said there is a lot of interest in the Indian government to focus on two themes for the Silicon Valley visit.
First is the digital economy, she wrote and added that here the focus will be a visit to Google and some announcements on Google's massive investments in India, she said.
"The other focus is on clean energy. Here the Indians want to visit Tesla and hopefully announce a Tesla partnership/venture with India focusing on their battery storage system for solar energy," Biswal said.
"The other major effort is around a clean energy roundtable with Stanford that commerce had been working on. It now seems (Commerce Secretary Penny) Pritzker cannot make it to California and the Indians are looking for some other USG (US government) principal to participate with industry, academia and government," she wrote.
"Before I engage the WH (State Department) and State or DoE (Department of Energy), I wanted to see if you had thoughts on how we should approach this. The Indians have said that it would need to be a Cabinet rank principal to convene this with the PM (Prime Minister)," Biswal said.
"We will of course see if Secretary (of State John) Kerry or Secretary (of Energy Earnest) Moniz can go to California that weekend but things are complicated by the (Chinese President) Xi (Jinpings) visit and the UNGA (UN General Assembly) schedule. Are there other options you would suggest we pursue?" she asked.
"Another option would be to see if (California) Governor (Jerry) Brown or perhaps President Clinton would be interested in co-hosting/convening. Also, would you want to participate in the roundtable? Let me know if you have thoughts on this or want to discuss," Biswal wrote as per the email released by WikiLeaks.
The State Department has not authenticated the email.
2016, PM Modi's speech to the US Congress
PM Narendra Modi’s speech to the US Congress, June 2016, analysed
US Presidents and the Indian Republic Day
Clinton said no to Rao's R-Day invite The Times of India Jan 25, 2015
Former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had invited then United States President Bill Clinton to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in 1995.
Clinton, however, turned it down saying the dates clashed with his State of The Union address, former foreign secretary K Srinivasan, who served in the Rao regime, revealed in a television show. Srinivasan said that he had called up Strobe Talbott to extend the invite, but he replied in the negative after a few hours.
2019, Mar: US, China clash at UN over Azhar
Chidanand Rajghatta, Sachin Parashar & Saibal Dasgupta
The US and China are engaged in a bitter showdown at the UN over Jaish-e-Muhammed chief Masood Azhar, with Beijing accusing Washington of “forcefully moving” a resolution in the Security Council which is intended to compel China to make public its reasons for stalling efforts to tag him as a “global terrorist”.
With Beijing persisting with a “technical hold”, thereby preventing the sanctions committee of the UNSC from designating the Jaish-e-Muhammed chief as a terrorist, Washington has sought to raise the heat by seeking a discussion in the council — inviting a sharp Chinese retort that it should act with caution.
Acting with the support of France and the UK, the US bumped up the issue of listing Azhar on Wednesday.
The move came two weeks after China, for the fourth time, put a hold on a proposal to list him under the 1267 Al Qaida Sanctions Committee of the council. Never before has a terrorist of interest to India been targeted at the council in this manner. The other 14 council members are said to be supporting the proposed ban.
Tread cautiously, China tells US on its Azhar move
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in Beijing that the US was undermining the authority of the sanctions committee. “This is not in line with resolution of the issue through dialogue and negotiations. This has reduced the authority of the committee as a main anti-terrorism body of the UNSC and this is not conducive to the solidarity and only complicates the issue,” Geng said.
“We urge the US to act cautiously and avoid forcefully moving forward this resolution draft,” China said, using unusually blunt language as the Trump administration made good its expressed intent to take the JeM chief ’s issue to the UNSC since the sanctions committee had been repeatedly thwarted.
Adding to the friction was US secretary of state Mike Pompeo calling out the contradiction of China’s forcible detention of Uighur Muslims while supporting terror groups like JeM. “The world cannot afford China’s shameful hypocrisy toward Muslims. On one hand, China abuses more than a million Muslims at home, but on the other, it protects violent Islamic terrorist groups from sanctions at the UN,” Pompeo said.
The US resolve in pushing China reflects a determination to press down on Pakistan in the wake of the JeM claiming responsibility for the suicide bombing in Pulwama despite its efforts to withdraw from Afghanistan, a strategy that is seen to require the cooperation of Pakistan. Its cruciality to US plans is seen as a factor that emboldens the Pakistan military to “sanction” a big attack in J&K.
The US move means that China, if it doesn’t lift the "technical hold”, will likely have to explain publicly for the first time the rationale behind its support to the leader of a UN-designated terrorist group. It is understood that the next step for the council is to have informal discussions on the resolution.
Indians in US senate
Kamala Harris , California's Attorney General, was in Nov 2016 elected to the United States Senate. She was elected from California, her home state, and is the first ever Indian-American to be elected to the Senate, the US legislature's upper house.
Several Indian-Americans+ have served in the lower house of the US legislature, the House of Representatives. Ami Bera, the current [in 2016] representative from California, is one of them.
Spying on India
NSA had spied on BJP, PPP: WikiLeaks
Global whistleblower agency WikiLeaks reported that United States National Security Agency had been authorised to spy on foreign-based political organisations, including BJP and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
According to the Express Tribune, a classified document revealed that NSA had been sanctioned to spy on most countries and some international bodies and political parties under the FISA court certification.
The Washington Post report said that under a 2010 certification approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA), NSA had the permission to spy on 193 foreign governments and foreign factions, political organisations and other entities.
The NSA was also authorised to spy on international bodies such as the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and many others.
The issue came to the fore as WikiLeaks claimed that NSA recently hacked into Pakistan's mobile networking systems.“Hundreds of NSA cyber weapons variants publicly released, including code showing hacking of Pakistan mobile system,“ the agency tweeted.
Indian traditions honoured in the USA
Diwali at the White House
White House security entrance at 2:15 PM on Tuesday, October 17: There are six Indians in immaculate sherwanis that the secret service is trying to clear through by matching their passports or drivers' licenses to the information they have on their computers. Four clear and two have problems. One of them is me. The problem is my passport has no last name. Even though I have met with candidate Trump, President-Elect Trump, and then President Trump, at least a dozen times, it's never been at the White House.
Diwali at the White House was scheduled to begin at 3:15 pm. For 30 minutes four different White House officials tried to get me cleared, but these secret service guys refused to break the protocol no matter who the visitor. It is 3:00 PM now. Outside, I was all smiles, but inside I was panicking at the thought of missing the event for which I had flown in from Los Angeles. One senior official announced that the President was running 10 minutes late, so I breathe slightly easier. Finally, seeing no solution in sight, the Secret Service offer a way out - I could go in as long as I am escorted by an official all the time. Three members of our group of six had already gone in, and finally the rest of us dash to the Roosevelt room, right next to the Oval Office. Just in time at 3:30 pm.
The decor at the Roosevelt room was awesome with at least six marine officers to assist you as well as keep you in line. There were a total of 26 guests, most of them currently working for the Trump administration such as Nikki Haley, Seema Verma, Ajit Pai, Raj Shah, Vanilla Singh, along with six members of the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) that had played a major role in the election of President Trump. I am the RHC India Ambassador.
After a 10-minute wait in the Roosevelt room, all 26 of us line up in the Oval Office. President Trump walks in, and comes over to us, the Kumar family which includes my dad Shalabh "Shalli" Kumar, his son Vikram Aditya Kumar and of course me.
See the last time Mr Kumar met President Trump, his first question to him was "Where is your daughter?" They had really connected during the candlelight dinner on January 19, the day before the inauguration, with Trumps, including First Lady Melania and First daughter Ivanka, spending almost 45 minutes with the Kumars. During their chat, Mr Kumar corrected him on the number of Hindu Americans in the US being 4.2 million and not 2 million. "That is even better," Trump said. The President then proceeded to read his statement and light the diya with Nikki Haley and Seema Verma to his right and Shalabh Kumar and me to his left. After the lighting of the diya, President reminisced with the Kumars about the New Jersey rally he had attended last year with wall-to-wall attendance. President acknowledged the fact that the "Ab Ki Baar Trump Sarkar" was successful in causing a seismic Hindu American shift from 16% for Romney to 65% for Trump. Kumar suggested that we hold another rally, this time with 50,000 people to which President told the attendees: "If there is someone who can pull it off, it is him."
Shalabh went on to say: "Today, we celebrate Diwali to welcome home the greatest among men, Lord Rama after killing the evil king who was terrorizing India. Since then, for over 10,000 years, Hindus all over the world pray on this day of Diwali to bring back Ram Rajya, the governance of good. I had predicted right after your inauguration that you had the potential of bringing Ram Rajya to the United States of America. Despite some hurdles in the Congress, you have done a great job so far." The Oval Office erupted with applause.
While the other guests left the Oval Office, President asked the Kumar family to stay back. This probably messed up the schedule General John Kelly chalked out for him but he seemed cool with it.
The president and General Kelly spent the next 30 minutes talking to the Kumars on a whole host of subjects and getting feedback on how the Trump administration is doing from the perspective of the younger generation and US-India-Pakistan-China relations.
Ups and downs
The Times of India, Jun 07 2016
Irony and paradox thrive in ties between India & US
Irony and paradox abound in India-US relations. Some of it will be evident when Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins his fourth trip to the US in two years with a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington just outside Washington DC, a monument to the fallen in the many wars America fought, some of which invited New Delhi's skepticism. Among them was the Vietnam War, the memorial to which is across from Arlington, and is made of black granite imported from Bangalore, at a time when India was an American bête-noire because of its mute acquiescence to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Pakistan and China were looked on favourably , but Indian doctors and engineers continued to stream into the US. Today , the US and India are partners in Afghanistan and beyond, leery of the China-Pakistan axis.
As Modi greets some of Indian-American elites at Blair House across from the White House ahead of his meeting with President Obama on Tuesday morning, US secretary of state John Kerry will be in Beijing trying to persuade China, which even today sends twice as many students to the US as India, to lift its blockade on India's entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group.Support from the Swiss would have heartened New Delhi as the Prime Minister headed out from Geneva to Washington DC, but NSG membership issue may not rank very high in Kerry's engagement with the Chinese in course of their annual bilateral dialogue that has gotten a little testy of late over primacy and territorial issues in the South China Sea.
In 2008, President George Bush picked up the phone to talk to China President Hu Jintao at a crucial moment to swing a waiver that enabled the civil nuclear deal for India.The atmosphere is not as propitious now, with China digging its heels over shepherding Pakistan into the NSG on India's coattails. But if every other country in the 48-member club -which ironically was formed in the aftermath of India's 1974 nuclear test to quarantine New Delhi -expresses its support for India's entry , then it will be Beijing that will have to contend with being isolated. China threw in the towel in 2008; most analysts think it is less likely now.
All of which points to China being the elephant in the room -and Pakistan the mouse -when Modi meets Obama in the Oval Office at 11 am on Tuesday (8.30 pm IST).Although the two sides are expected to engage on a raft of other issues, from discussing nuclear reactors to returning stolen antiques, Chi na will loom large, because, in the words of Ashley Tellis, a Carnegie Endowment scholar who has studied the issue extensively , “'US today sees India as a security partner of choice in the broader Indo-Pacific region.“ Everything else is subsumed by that great pivot.Even when it comes to trade, an area where US-China engagement has so far dwarfed US-India exchanges by a huge margin, some experts think Washington is starting to look towards New Delhi as China starts to slow down, despite doubts about India own dodgy performance.
Depending on which sector or constituency they belong to, experts break up the agenda for the visit into parts -from securing the NSG membership to military cooperation agreements to purchase of nuclear reactors to defense engagement to trade, manufacturing and jobs issues. A common thread running through everything is managing the rise -and now plateauing of -China.
2017/ Ties grow stronger
India was the only country for which the Trump administration came out with a 100-year plan; an honour not accorded to even America's top allies
It is also for the first time that the US has aligned itself with India's position on One Belt One Road of China
Among the differences, the most prominent is the issue of the H-1B visas
India has refused to succumb to any pressure when it comes to the interest of its own people
India-US relationship made great strides in 2017, with President Donald Trump keeping his electoral promise of being the "best friend of India" inside the White House.
India was the only country for which the Trump administration came out with a 100-year plan; an honour not accorded to even America's top allies.
Not only Trump administration rechristened the Asia Pacific region as Indo-Pacific, much to the anxiety of China, giving a greater role and space for New Delhi in the entire region, but also for the first time the United States stated in clear terms that India is a key player in Afghanistan.
As Trump announced his South Asia Policy - giving India a key role in bringing peace in the war-torn nation - in August, for the first time a US president aligned himself with New Delhi's position that terrorism emanates from Pakistan. While many critics would say that it still remains in the realms of rhetoric, top officials of the Trump administration assert that it would be a "big mistake" on the part of Pakistan if it did not take seriously the words of Trump. President Trump released his first National Security Strategy, which described India as a "leading global power" and stressed on deepening US' strategic partnership with New Delhi and support its leadership role in maintaining security in the Indo-Pacific region.
"2017 has been an important year for the US-India relationship," said acting deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asia Tom Vajda.
"United by our common interests and goals, our bilateral relationship in 2017 focused on what we can do together to promote peace and security throughout the world, particularly in the Indo-Pacific; combat terrorist threats; strengthen our defence and security ties; increase free and reciprocal trade; and build out energy linkages," he said.
As President Trump said during Prime Minister Modi's visit to Washington, "the relationship between India and the United States has never been stronger, has never been better," the top state department official said. It is also for the first time that the US has aligned itself with India's position on One Belt One Road of China.
Before heading for India, secretary of state Rex Tillerson on his India-policy speech sketched out the administration's policy on OBOR, on the lines of that of India and reiterated New Delhi's argument that there is need to come out with an alternative to Chinese model of predatory financing to countries which eats into their sovereignty.
Not only this, led by defence secretary Jim Mattis, the entire administration raised the sovereignty issue of China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which pases through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
While the ground work of the relationship was being laid by officials on both sides - in particular foreign secretary S Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit K Doval - in the first six months of the year, when they held multiple visits or hosted senior White House officials, it is the meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Trump at the White House on June 26, which is said to be a landmark and a turning point in the bilateral relationship this year.
The joint statement issued laid out the broader parameters of the relationship.
Modi and Trump have met twice this year and have spoken over phone multiple times.
The two have developed strong friendship and are working together to take the relationship to a new height that would not only benefit India and the US but also the entire world.
Modi's visit was quickly followed by defence secretary Jim Mattis and Tillerson travelling to India.
Trump's daughter and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump led the US delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad that was co-hosted by India and the US.
"We were incredibly proud to co-host the very successful Global Entrepreneurship Summit with India in November," Vajda said.
"Our militaries once again showed their ability to operate together with the MALABAR naval exercise off the coast of Chennai, and our two armies came together in Washington State for the Yudh Abhyas exercise to hone their skills in counter terrorism and counter insurgency operations," he said.
"Our economic relationship continues to grow, led by sales in US civil aviation, military equipment, and, for the first time, crude oil as we seek to expand and balance our trade relationship," Vajda added. Trump also appointed a veteran India hand, Kenneth Juster, as the new US Ambassador to New Delhi this November.
"We look forward to continuing to grow our partnership in 2018," Vajda said.
At a time when both the Republicans and Democrats are rarely having any meeting ground including foreign policy, India-US relationship emerged as one of the rare of the rarest meeting ground between a Republican White House and the opposition Democratic party.
"I think this year proved that the US/India partnership is a bipartisan priority," former US Ambassador to India Richard Verma told PTI.
"This relationship has not only weathered the storm of global uncertainty, it has proven to be a great stabiliser as well," said Verma, the first Indian-American envoy to India.
Nisha Desai Biswal, Obama administration's point person for South and Central Asia, echoed the same.
"While 2017 has been a very dynamic year in the US on the political front, there has been remarkable stability on the US-India partnership, a continuing priority for the United States in the Trump administration," Biswal told PTI.
She said the Trump administration has also framed the strategic importance of US-India partnership across the Indo- Pacific in very bold and unequivocal terms.
Now president of US-India Business Council (USIBC), Biswal said this bodes well for greater growth in defence collaboration.
As President of USIBC, Biswal said she is also focused on the state of overall bilateral trade and the commercial ties. "We are optimistic that the way forward will see fewer hurdles and an easier path for much needed investment," Biswal said.
As is the case with all bilateral ties, there are a couple of issues that the two sides need to work on to resolve their differences.
Prominent among them is the issue of the H-1B visas, which attracts foreign specialised workers to come to the US for employment, many of them from India and China.
The Modi government has strongly taken up the issue with the Trump administration.
Similarly, India has refused to succumb to any pressure when it comes to the interest of its own people. This was quite evident in the recently concluded WTO talks.
The US has expressed its disappointment over India's position on several issues being talked about at the WTO.
The two-plus-two dialogue which was announced during Modi-Trump meeting is expected to be held before spring as officials from the two sides are trying to find a common date. Officials are also looking at a possibility of Trump travelling to India sometime in 2018.
Visa issues, why India is concerned
The Times of India, February 8, 2017
US President Donald Trump is said to be preparing to issue executive orders on H-1B visas as part of larger immigration reform efforts, which could impact technology companies such as Infosys, Wipro and TCS that use these visas to send Indian professionals to the US.
H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that enables the visa holder to work in a "specialty occupation, in the US for three years, with extensions possible in most cases.
1. 1990: Birth of H-1B Visa
Started under President George H Bush, who signed The Immigration Act, 1990, increasing legal immigration by 40%, the total number of years of visa stay allowed was six years including a three year extension. The H-1B cap was 65,000 and the base filing fees was $365.
2. ACWIA Act doubles H-1B visa allocation
The American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act was enacted during the presidency of Bill Clinton.
Under the Act, the number of H-1B visas allotted nearly doubled from 65,000 to 115,000 for the fiscal years 1999 and 2000 respectively.
An amount of $500 was added to the base filing fees of $365 to fund the scholarship and training programme.
3. AC21 Act makes it easy for H-1B visa holders to change company
American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act was enacted to change rules related to H-1B portability and increase the annual cap quota.
AC21 makes it easier for H-1B workers to change employers in certain situations. This Act, under Clinton, raised the cap to 195,000 for fiscal years 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively.
4. 2005: Consolidated Appropriations Act reduces the number of H-1B visas granted
The Consolidated Appropriations Act came into effect under George W Bush. It reduced the annual H-1B cap to 65,000 and introduced a separate pool of 20,000 H-1B visas under the H-1B Advanced Degree Exemption for people having a US Master's degree. It introduced anti-fraud fees of $500.
5. 2013: Visa Reforms Act 2013 seeks to cut down on visa fraud
The H-1B Visa Reforms Act came under President Barack Obama in the year 2013.
The Act aimed to cut down the inconsistencies in the H-1B visa programme with a focus to prevent misuse and fraud.
Visa- refusal rate: 2006, 2016
Visa- refusal rate- 2006- 2016
2014: H-1B visas
Source: The Times of India
1. The Times of India, Aug 13 2015
2. The Times of India, Aug 13 2015, Houston
`In 2014, US granted 86% of H-1B visas to Indians'
Almost 86% of H-1B visas that the US granted to IT employees in 2014 went to Indians, a Computerworld analysis of government data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request shows. Most of those H-1B visa holders work for outsourcing companies such as Infosys and TCS.
China was far behind in second place at 5% of H-1B visas for IT occupations; no other nation rose above 1%, according to data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. About 76,000 H-1B visas were issued to software professionals in 2014. IT companies “apparently cannot get enough Indian programmers, which has little to do with a shortage of competent natives for these types of jobs, but a lot to do with the industry's business model,“ said Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at Georgetown University's Institute. “Young H-1B programmers are in demand because the visa offers control over this contracted shortterm workforce, it permits them to pay less than experienced natives and ability to cultivate programmers who can better serve their clients after returning to India“, Lowell said.
In case of H-1B visas for engineers, Indian workers are still on top with 47% of the visas, or 8,103, followed by China with 19.5%.
2015-16: H-1B visas
Approvals (2016), for Indians, outsourcing companies
H1-B visas: the position as in 2015
2016: Pak sees 40% decline, India a 28% increase
Pakistan has had a 40% drop in the number of visas granted to its nationals under the Trump administration despite not being on the list of US's travel ban countries.
Interestingly , the number of non-immigrant US visas to Indians has increased by 28% in March and April this year as compared to the monthly average of the previous year, according to the monthly official data. Indian nationals received 87,049 visas in April and 97,925 visas in March in 2016.
Pakistanis were issued 3,925 non-immigrant visas in April and 3,973 visas in March.The Obama administration last year issued 78,637 visas to Pakistan with a monthly average of 6,553, 40% higher than the current average.
A spokesperson said, “Visa demand is cyclical, not uniform and affected by various factors. Visa issuance numbers tend to increase during peak travel seasons... though there may be different trends at the country , nationality, or visa-category level.“ Experts believe the drop may indicate more visa applicants are now subject to excessive scrutiny .
2017, Jan-Sep: Despite 4% dip, India remains no.1, gets 63% of visas
The number of H-1B visas for “initial employment” issued to Indians dipped by 4% in the 12-month period ending September 30, 2017. In all, 67,815 visas were approved by the US for Indian aspirants as compared to 70,737 in the 2016 fiscal.
According to immigration experts, the 4% drop indicates two ground realities: “extreme vetting” and a higher rejection rate during processing, reflecting the protectionist policies under President Trump; and higher local hiring by large Indian IT players such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro.
Despite this drop, Indians were the largest group of H-1B beneficiaries.
They bagged 63% of the total 1.08 lakh visas issued for initial employment in the period. In fiscal 2016, Indian beneficiaries constituted 62% of the 1.14 lakh visas granted.
Over 75% of H-1B applicants Indian
In aggregate, 2.76 lakh beneficiaries of the total 3.65 lakh H-1B applications in 2017 (or 75.6%) were born in India. These statistics were disclosed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in its recent report: Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers.
“The number of beneficiaries from India approved for initial employment decreased by 4.1% in fiscal 2017, while the number of beneficiaries approved for continuing employment increased by 12.5%,” it said. Applications for initial employment are filed for first-time employment in the US under the H-1B visa route, which is a popular work visa, especially for India’s technology sector.
Post-September 2017, procedural changes such as greater strictures for H-1B aspirants working at thirdparty client sites have been issued. The US also plans to tighten the H-1B policy further by changing the definition of “specialisation occupation,” which will narrow job opportunities for Indian aspirants. It also plans to hike the minimum wage rate for H-1B visa holders from $60,000 per year to $90,000 or more, making it more expensive to hire expats. Fiscal 2017 saw a median salary of $85,000.
“This downward trend in the number of visas for new beneficiaries is likely to continue and the drop in numbers may be sharper in fiscal 2018 and beyond,” said an inhouse immigration expert of a technology company.
“I expect a 5-10 times increase in denials. I am seeing a lot of movement within my clientele towards setting up operations in Canada. This brain drain from US may not be obvious right away, but will definitely affect its lead in science and technology,” pointed out Rajiv S Khanna, managing attorney at Immigration.com.
Annually, only 85,000 visas are issued for initial employment by the US authorities (which includes the US Master’s cap of 20,000). Apart from being the largest constituents for initial employment, in aggregate, 2.76 lakh beneficiaries of the total 3.65 lakh applicants (or 75.6%) were born in India.
The report said that over one-fifth of the H-4 visa holders with work authorisation live in California
As of December 25, 2017, US Citizenship and Immigration Services had approved 126,853 applications for employment authorisation for H-4 visa holders
A staggering 93 per cent of the total H-4 visa holders in the US having work authorisation are from India, a latest Congressional report on the spouse visa has said. Over one-fifth of the H-4 visa holders with work authorisation live in California, it said.
Ninety-three per cent of granted applications for employment authorisation were issued to women; seven per cent to men, according to the report on H-4 visas by the independent Congressional Research Service of the US Congress, which prepares periodic reports on issues of interest to US lawmakers.
"Ninety-three per cent of approved applications for H-4 employment authorisation were issued to individuals born in India, and five per cent were issued to individuals born in China. Individuals born in all other countries combined make up the remaining two per cent of approved applications," CRS said in its nine-page report.
As of December 25, 2017, US Citizenship and Immigration Services had approved 126,853 applications for employment authorisation for H-4 visa holders. These count all approvals since May 2015 when the rule was implemented.
This number includes 90,946 initial approvals, 35,219 renewals, and 688 replacements for lost cards.
H-4 visa holders are not geographically constrained by law, and approvals for employment authorisation documents have been issued to H-4 non-immigrants living in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the US territories. California accounts for more than one-fifth (28,033), and Texas and New Jersey together account for another 20 per cent.
Before 2015, H-4 visa holders were not eligible for work authorisation.
As the visa queue increased for individuals in particular those from India and China awaiting employment-based legal permanent resident (LPR) status, policymakers and others raised concerns about the lack of employment authorisation for spouses hindering the US' ability to attract and retain highly educated workers.
In 2015 Federal Register issued a notice establishing work authorisation for certain H-4 spouses referred to three anticipated benefits: reducing personal and financial burdens on H-1B and H-4 non-immigrants, reducing disruption to the US businesses and attracting and retaining highly-skilled workers.
The previous Obama administration argued that allowing H-4 spouses to work would support the US economy because H-1B non-immigrants and their spouses have historically made significant contributions to entrepreneurship and research and development.
Finally, this rule may facilitate attracting and retaining highly skilled workers by bringing US immigration policies more in line with those of other countries that compete for similarly skilled workers, it said.
Unlike work authorisation for H-1B visa holders, employment authorisation that is granted based on H-4 status is not restricted to a specific employer and does not require the employer to get approval from the Department of Labour.
H-4 work authorisation also does not prohibit self-employment, starting a business, or hiring employees.
However, under its America First Policy, the Trump administration is proposing to remove from regulation H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of foreign nationals eligible for employment authorisation.
The result would be that H-4 visa holders would not have authorisation to work in the US.
The administration anticipates publishing the proposed rule in the Federal Register in June 2018, which would be followed by a public comment period before a final rule would be published, CRS said.
While H-4 EADs have been issued to residents of almost 4,000 cities across the US, CRS said the cities with the highest numbers are around large "tech hubs" such as the Silicon Valley, northern New Jersey, Seattle, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, the Washington, DC, region and Atlanta.
CRS said Congress has considered several related pieces of legislation.
The Immigration Innovation Act of 2018 (S.2344), as introduced in the 115th Congress, would codify the current regulation providing work authorisation to H-4 spouses of certain H-1B non-immigrants and would require the employer of the H-4 spouse to attest that they will pay her or him the greater of the prevailing wage for that occupation in the area of employment or the actual wage paid to other workers in the same job with similar qualifications (i.e., applying the same pay standard to the hiring of H-4 visa holders as is applied to their H-1B spouses).
Previous versions of this bill (S.153, as introduced in the 114th Congress, and S.169, as introduced in the 113th Congress) would have provided employment authorisation to the spouse of any H-1B or L (intra-company transferee) non-immigrant, regardless of whether the H-1B or L non-immigrant had begun the process of obtaining LPR status.
These bills would not have required labour attestation.
Likewise, immigration reform bills in the 113th Congress (S.744, as passed by the Senate, and HR 15, as introduced) would have provided employment authorisation to the spouse of any H1B or L non-immigrant, regardless of whether the H-1B or L non-immigrant had begun the process of obtaining LPR status.
US Pacific Command is now Indo-Pacific Command
Invoking the geographical expanse “from California to India” and the cultural spread “from Hollywood to Bollywood”, the Trump administration on Wednesday announced the renaming of the US Pacific Command as the US Indo-Pacific Command.
In a clear nod to India and a shot across China’s bow, US defense secretary Jim Mattis told journalists in Hawaii, where the command is headquartered, that he directed the name change to signal America’s commitment to ensure that every country “no matter its size… is not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion”.
It was a clear reference to China’s growing assertiveness in the region at the expense of smaller nations.
“If you notice, there’s only one country that seems to take active steps to rebuff them or state their resentment of them. But they’re international waters and a lot of nations want to see freedom of navigation,” Mattis said, calling out Beijing for breaking a 2015
promise to never militarise disputed islands in the region.
China has “done exactly that”, moving weaponry in that were never there before, and while the US is going out of its way to cooperate with the Pacific nations, “we’re also going to confront what we believe is out of step with international law and out of step with international tribunals that have spoken on the issue”, Mattis said.
The change in PACOM’s nomenclature and the tough remarks on China came just hours ahead of the Shangri-la defence dialogue in Singapore where eminence grises of the world’s strategic community,
including several world leaders (PM Modi too) are attending. Mattis is expected to call on Modi later on Thursday.
It is a largely symbolic move to underline India’s growing importance for the Pentagon at a time when Washington is also trying to pressure New Delhi to shun buying new weapon systems from Russia. The renaming recognises India’s increasing military relevance for the US but does not mean any additional military assets would be dispatched to the Indo-Pacific immediately.
Mattis stopped in Hawaii on his way to Singapore to install Navy Adm. Phil Davidson
as the leader of the powerful Pacific Command, succeeding Harry Harris, the admiral who’s slated to become the US ambassador to South Korea.
It was Harris who described the footprint of the renamed command as spanning “Hollywood to Bollywood, polar bears to penguins”.
India has long come under the US Pacific Command, whereas Pakisan and other nations to its west come under the US Central Command. Most of the world’s trade and commerce, perhaps upwards of 80%, traverses the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, illustrating the decline of Atlantic powers.
There were several overt and oblique references in the Hawaii event to the growing assertiveness of China and the American objective of countering it, with the help of what some analysts see as a reluctant India, which barely exercises influence in its own backyard, and had to be dragged into a “look east” policy. But the US vision, Mattis said, was very clear: “It’s been consistent over many administrations — a safe and secure and free Indo-Pacific region based on shared principles that are aligned with international law.”
It is a largely symbolic move to underline India’s growing importance for the Pentagon at a time when Washington is trying to pressure New Delhi to shun buying new weapon systems from Russia. But the renaming does not mean any additional military assets would be dispatched to the Indo-Pacific immediately
India 3rd in Asia after Japan, South Korea to get STA-1
India has become only the third Asian country after Japan and South Korea to get the Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1) status after the United States issued a federal notification to this effect, paving the way for high-technology product sales to New Delhi, particularly in civil space and defense sectors.
India is the 37th country to be designated the STA-1 status by the US. The federal notification, issued on Friday, gains significance as the Trump administration has made an exception for India, which is yet to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Traditionally, the US has placed in the STA-1 list only those countries which are members of all the four export control regimes: Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), Australia Group (AG) and the NSG.
In its federal notification, the Trump administration noted that India is a member of three of the four multilateral export regimes. It is mainly because of the political opposition from China that India’s membership application has been pending before the NSG, which takes decisions only by consensus. By placing India in the STA-1 list, the US has acknowledged that for all practical purposes India adheres to the export control regimes of the NSG. This exception for New Delhi is intended to send a strong political message to China and the world, taking into account that even America’s closest ally Israel is yet to be given this status, primarily because it is not a member of these multilateral export control regimes.
“This action befits India’s status as a Major Defence Partner and recognises” the country’s membership in three of the four export control regimes, the notification said. This rule is another in a series of rules that implement reforms to which the US and India mutually agreed to promote global non-proliferation, expand high technology cooperation and trade, and ultimately facilitate India’s full membership in the four multilateral export control regimes.
According to the notification, the US and India continue their commitment to work together to strengthen the global non-proliferation and export control framework and further transform bilateral export control cooperation to recognise the full potential of the global strategic partnership between the two countries.
This commitment has been realised in the two countries’ mutually agreed upon steps to expand cooperation in civil space, defense, and other high-technology sectors and the complementary steps of the US to realign India in US export control regulations, and support India's membership in the four multilateral export control regimes, it said.
To date, with the effective support of the US, India has been admitted to three of the four multilateral export control regimes, the MTCR on June 27, 2016, the Wassenaar Arrangement on December 7, 2017, and the Australia Group on January 19, 2018. These memberships, important to the two countries’ global strategic partnership, are enhanced by the US’ recognition of India as a major defence partner in the India-US joint statement of June 7, 2016 titled ‘The United States and India: Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century’. “This recognition facilitates and supports India’s military modernisation efforts with the US as a reliable provider of advanced defense articles,” the notification further says.
The federal notification states that because India has been admitted to the MTCR, Wassenaar and AG multilateral regimes and is a major defence partner, it is listed in favoured country groups for purposes of license requirements, license application review policy and availability of license exceptions. Membership in favoured country groups generally reduces the number of licenses required and increases the number of license exceptions available. “Therefore... this rule will reduce the paperwork burden to the public,” the notification said.
Significantly, the US did away with the public notification period before issuing this notification. “This rule implements decisions of multilateral export control regimes, of which the US is a supporting member, and the rule furthers the objectives of the strategic commitment established between the US and India,” the notification said, while observing that delay in implementing the rule would undermine the foreign policy objectives it is intended to implement. India so far was in STA-2 with Albania, Hong Kong, Israel, Malta, Singapore, South Africa and Taiwan.
2+2 talks set strategic direction; Pact With US Defence Unit A Takeaway
Pact With US Defence Unit A Big Takeaway
The ‘2+2’ dialogue, held for the first time at the foreign and defence ministers’ level, set India’s strategic direction firmly with the US. Held after two delays, sources in the Indian government indicated they had reasons to feel satisfied.
While signing the COMCASA with the US, a landmark agreement that has huge implications for India-US defence and security relations, India persisted in its demand for a ‘Make in India’ component for defence trade with the US. Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Swaraj made another pitch with the US for the defence relationship to be more than a “buyer-seller” one. The US reluctantly agreed to put this in the joint statement, which said, the two countries “committed to explore other means to support further expansion in two-way trade in defence items and defence manufacturing supply chain linkages.” Whether this becomes an ultimate reality or not will depend on how defence manufacturing takes off in India, and whether there is any traction in the US defence industry for components from India.
Despite the COMCASA signalling much closer cooperation between India and US, the Indians wanted to maintain their “autonomous” space. Accordingly, the joint statement described the “two countries are strategic partners, major and independent stakeholders in world affairs.”
A big takeaway was the pact with the US’ Defense Innovation Unit — unlike in the past when the US’ DARPA was at the cutting edge of innovation which then spread to the civilian world, more and more innovations today are being made in the civilian sector, in Silicon Valley, which could have defence and security applications. With this agreement, India will have a presence in this unit in Silicon Valley, hoping to do its bit for the next-generation innovation in defence technology.
Three India-specific formulations distinguished the COMCASA from the CISMOA — there would be no disruption during the life cycle of the equipment; the India data generated would not be disclosed or transferred, and national security concerns would be addressed. While the purchase of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia was not raised by the Indian side, the US side indicated that India would not be sanctioned for its legacy platforms. But fresh purchases would fall under the purview of CAATSA. That would be a potential problem.
India might be able to wrangle a carve-out for the Chahbahar port, but oil imports would come under the scanner. Most important, there is no pact on the trade troubles that have persisted with the Trump administration. The government will be sending another delegation of officials to see if they can cobble together a package trade deal. Trump would be against it, particularly as he railed against subsidies for India.
US President Trump turns down R-Day invite due to engagements
US President Donald Trump could not accept India’s invitation to attend the Republic Day parade in January due to scheduling constraints but looked forward to meeting PM Narendra Modi at the earliest opportunity, a White House spokesperson said.
The statement to NDTV confirmed that India had indeed extended an invite to Trump and that the leader was unable to accept it.
In a statement, the White House spokesperson said, “President Trump was honoured by PM Modi’s invitation for him to be chief guest of India’s Republic Day on January 26, 2019, but is unable to participate due to scheduling constraints.
“The president enjoys a strong personal rapport with PM Modi developed through two meetings and several phone calls and remains committed to deepening the US-India strategic partnership. The president very much looks forward to meeting PM Modi again at the earliest opportunity.”
Since Trump will not attend the East Asia Summit in Singapore in November, the only other chance Modi has of meeting him is in Argentina during the G-20 summit. India could approach an EU leader even though former French president Francoise Hollande was the chief guest in 2016. Government sources said they had already shortlisted invites to a few heads of state, though its a little embarrassing for India to be stood up in this manner.
Trump claims Indian PM wanted Kashmir mediation. Triggers row
Donald Trump's stunning claim that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue triggered a massive political row on Tuesday even as the government asserted that no such request was made to the US president and all issues will have to be resolved with Islamabad bilaterally.
The issue rocked both houses of Parliament with the Opposition demanding Modi's statement on Trump's controversial remarks, holding that Kashmir is a bilateral issue and no third party can intervene.
As the opposition ramped up the attack on the government, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in the Rajya Sabha that Modi had never made any such request to Trump and stressed that all outstanding issues with Pakistan can be discussed only bilaterally.
"Any engagement with Pakistan will require an end to cross border terrorism," he said, adding that the Simla and Lahore accords signed between India and Pakistan provide the basis for resolution of all issues bilaterally.
The external affairs ministry made a similar statement on Monday night after Trump's controversial comments that he met Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House.
Not satisfied with the government's statement, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said if Trump's claim that Modi asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue is true, the PM had betrayed the interests of the country.
Gandhi also asserted that a "weak" foreign ministry denial wouldn't do and Modi must tell the nation what transpired in the meeting between him and the US president.
"President Trump says PM Modi asked him to mediate between India & Pakistan on Kashmir! If true, PM Modi has betrayed India's interests & 1972 Shimla Agreement," the Congress leader said in a tweet.
In Washington, the State Department, in a damage control exercise, said Kashmir was a "bilateral" issue between India and Pakistan, and the US "welcomes" the two countries "sitting down" for talks.
It also said Pakistan taking "sustained and irreversible" steps against terrorism are key to a successful dialogue with India.
"While Kashmir is a bilateral issue for both parties to discuss, the Trump administration welcomes Pakistan and India sitting down and the United States stands ready to assist," a State Department spokesperson told PTI in response to a question if Donald Trump's remarks reflect a change in the country's policy on Kashmir.
In New Delhi, scores of senior opposition leaders slammed the government on the issue. "We demand PM's clarification," TMC MP Derek O'Brien said.
Trump claimed that Modi asked him to mediate on the Kashmir issue when they met in Osaka, Japan, on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit last month.
"If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know," Trump said in response to a question, adding he is ready to help, if the two countries ask for it.
"I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject (Kashmir). And he actually said, 'would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?' I said, 'where?' (Modi said) 'Kashmir'," Trump said.
Afghanistan: US restores Pakistan’s primacy; lets down India, Kabul
He loves deals and thinks he has mastered the “Art of the Deal.” And the deal Pakistan sucked him into on a hot and muggy Washington afternoon was “Afghanistan exitfor-Kashmir mediation”.
Virtually reversing more than two decades of US policy in Afghanistan centering on cleansing the landlocked country from Pakistansponsored extremism that led to the 9/11 terrorist attack on America, US President Donald Trump restored Islamabad’s primacy over Kabul, saying “Pakistan is going to help us out to extricate ourselves (from Afghanistan)”.
In the process, Trump threw Kabul and New Delhi under the bus while retreating from his own charges of Pakistan’s deceit and double dealing on sponsoring terrorism in the region, identifying Iran as his principal enemy and declaring (that unlike Iran) “Pakistan does not lie”. Trump had repeatedly attacked Pakistan on Twitter and on television for taking American aid and still working against the US in the region, but in 30 tumultuous minutes in the White House Oval Office, he publicly changed policy and position, claiming Pakistan did so because it did not respect his predecessors and he did not blame Islamabad for it.
In Trump’s eyes, it is not Pakistan, widely regarded in the US and the global intelligence community as the malevolent force that poisoned Afghanistan with its Taliban proxies, which is at fault or a danger to the region. It is Afghanistan which is the danger and which needs to be defeated — and he could do it quickly by eviscerating the country but he would rather not.
“I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth. It would be gone. It would be over in literally in ten days. And I don’t want to do — I don’t want to go that route,” Trump said, with a bizarre digression about US weapons that could cause catastrophic damage in a nation that is a victim of foreign interference for ages.
He then explained his turnaround on Pakistan, blaming his predecessors for Pakistan’s policies.
“I don’t think Pakistan respected the United States. I don’t think Pakistan respected its presidents. I think Pakistan can do tremendous amount against — with respect to Afghanistan. They didn’t do it and I don’t blame them because they were dealing with the wrong President. Who knows? But… they’re helping us a lot now,” Trump rambled, openly displaying pique about his predecessors and bringing it into the foreign policy sphere.
“I think they could have helped us a lot in the past. But it doesn’t matter. We have a new leader; he’s doing to be a great leader of Pakistan. And we have a new leader here. Sort of new; I’m two and half years now — getting to be three years, can you believe it? You’re going to find time flies,” Trump rambled on. “But, no, I think Pakistan could have done a lot but they chose not to. And that’s because they did not respect US leadership.”