The United States on Saturday announced that from 3 April it would temporarily suspend the ‘premium processing’ of H-1B visas that allowed some companies to jump the queue as part of its efforts to clear the backlog.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would start accepting the H-1B visa applications for the fiscal year 2018 beginning October 1, 2017, from April 3.
The move came as a snub to India even as India’s foreign secretary travelled to the US to convince the Trump administration not to go ahead with the measure.
Just hours before Trump administration made the announcement, this is what Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar told reports in a briefing, “If the Trump Administration’s intention is to bring back American companies to the United States and attract more foreign investment in America, then it is important America remains competitive. So, there would actually be (a) growing need for this partnership.”
Jaishankar, during his recent visit to the US, had held a number of key meetings, including with Secretary of State Tillerson, Commerce Secretary Ross, Secretary of Homeland Security Gen (retd) John Kelly, National Security Advisor R McMaster, and Deputy Assistant to the President, Ken Juster.
This has now ignited the debate on yet another failure of India’s foreign diplomacy because the US administration’s steps to suspend the expedited premium processing of H1B visas will have huge consequences on India’s skilled labour force in America.
Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj, is still recovering from her surgery she had undergone last year, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains preoccupied with the ‘more important’ task of saving his political fortunes.
The US government’s curb on H1B visa also coincided with another gruesome killing of an Indian in what’s believed to be an incident of hate crime.
A 43-year-old Indian-origin store owner, Harnish Patel, was shot dead outside his home in South Carolina, just days after an Indian engineer was killed in Kansas in a hate crime shooting that had sent shockwaves across the country.
Patel, a Gujarati, was the owner of a convenience store in Lancaster County. He was found dead of gunshot wounds in the front yard of his home on Thursday, coroner and police officials said.
With two Indians being killed within a span of a week and Modi busy in securing his political future assume significance in light of what the prime minister had said to expatriate community in Saudi Arabia last year.
Speaking to the NRI community in Riyadh in April last year, Modi had claimed, “It is your sweat and toil that has brought me here… Your happiness is my happiness and when you are not happy, I also feel the pain.”
Modi is currently camping in his constituency, Varanasi, where he’s expected to stay for three days. Modi is joined by his entire cabinet and senior BJP leaders who’ve arrived in the Holy city fearing a possible electoral defeat of the saffron party candidates in the ongoing assembly polls.
As of now, the prime minister has flown to Punjab twice addressing multiple election rallies there and four times to Uttarakhand even though the state has nearly half the seats of Punjab.
In Uttar Pradesh, which has 403 seats and whose electoral outcome on 11 March will decide the future direction of Modi’s leadership, the prime minister has already addressed nearly more than 30 rallies.
This is not the first time India has suffered a setback on the diplomatic front. Jaishankar had flown to the US understandably to successfully persuade the US government to change its mind on H1B visa sanction. But, the Trump administration’s determination to go ahead with its policy to check immigration has clearly come as a setback for Indian diplomacy.
In June last year, many countries, perceived to be India’s friends, had voted against India’s bid to join the elite Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.
At the 48-member plenary meeting of the NSG in South Korean capital Seoul, countries such as, Switzerland, Brazil, Austria, Ireland, Turkey and New Zealand had opposed India’s application to join the NSG.
The opposition to India’s bid came not just from China but also countries, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited or held talks with their premiers after being elected as the prime minister.