New Delhi: External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday raised with her US counterpart Rex Tillerson the issue of H-1B visas, and said nothing should be done by the Trump administration which may 'adversely' impact India's interests.
She also talked about India's two-pronged approach to avert any possibility of the passage of bills pending in the US Congress which recommends changes in H-1B visas, popular among Indian IT professionals.
"We have also discussed the very significant contribution to the US economy of Indian skilled professionals who travel and work under H-1B and L-1 visa programs. I have also sought Secretary Tillerson's support for resolution of long-pending issue of totalisation and asked that nothing such should be done by US which adversely affects India's interests," Swaraj said.
She said India was engaged with officials of the Trump administration as well as the US Congressmen to avert any possibility of the passage of bills but asserted that there was no change as of today in H-1B visas.
Swaraj, addressing a joint press conference with US secretary of state Tillerson, also said that she has sought his support in resolving the long-pending issue of totalisation.
India has been seeking a totalisation agreement aimed at protecting benefit rights of its workers and short-term IT and other service providers in the US.
The pact is expected to stop Indian IT companies from paying millions of dollars to the American exchequer annually towards social security payment.
Holding that people-to-people contacts have played a critical role in the development of relations between the two democracies, Swaraj said this is most evident in the "mutually-beneficial digital partnership", driven by skilled professionals.
Wednesday's discussion comes at a time when the Trump administration has made the renewal of non-immigrant visas such as H-1B and L-1 more difficult, with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) saying that the burden of proof in establishing eligibility is, at all times, on the petitioner.
There have been concerns in India over the Trump administration's move to impose stricter regulations on immigration and visas, especially H-1B and L-1 visas.
Prime minister Narendra Modi also raised these concerns with US president Donald Trump in July this year.
India, US tell Pak: Terror safe havens will not be tolerated
India and the US have warned Pakistan that the presence of terror safe havens there will not be 'tolerated' and asked it to take action against terror groups, which the US said are now threatening the stability of the Pakistani government as well.
"Terror safe havens will not be tolerated," said Tillerson, while assuring full support to India in fighting terrorism.
Swaraj said India expressed its serious concern over increasing terror attacks in Afghanistan which showed that there were elements which were supporting and providing safe havens to terrorists.
"We also agreed that Pakistan should take immediate steps to eliminate terror safe havens. We believe that US president Trump's new strategy (for South Asia) can only be successful when Pakistan, without any discrimination, takes action against all terror groups," she said.
The discussions were dominated by the US' newly announced strategy on South Asia and security situation in Afghanistan with Washington favoring India's increasing role in the regional security architecture.
Tillerson also noted India's constructive role in rebuilding Afghanistan through development projects.
He also said that there are 'certain expectations' placed before the Pakistani leadership in Islamabad during his discussions on dealing with terrorist organizations as well as their leaders.
Tillerson said he had 'open and frank' talks with the Pakistan leadership over the concerns the US shared with its ally India and also Afghanistan that there were too many terrorist organizations which find safe place in Pakistan to conduct their operations and attacks on other countries.