VISA CONCERNS: Washington denies any major change in H1-B visa regime –
NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday said that strategic ties with Washington won’t prevent India from raising issues concerning Indians and Indian Diaspora with the US.
Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha on hate crimes against Indians in the US, she said that for the Modi government, the interests of Indians preceded strategic partnership with any country.
“Strategic partnership does not mean we will ignore the interests of the Indians (living in US),” she said in reply to a question raised by CPI’s D Raja.
“For us, strategic partnership is secondary. The safety and security of Indians and people of Indian origin is primary. Have no doubts that we would keep silent because we have strategic relations with a country.”
Addressing concerns raised by members as to whether a trend in hate crimes was emerging in the US, Sushma Swaraj said New Delhi was “closely monitoring” the situation.
“Till date, the US authorities are saying these are sporadic incidents. But we are watching if a trend is emerging. We are sure the US authorities would not let it become these hate crimes a trend.”
In last few weeks, at least three incidents of attacks on Indians in the US have been reported.
On February 22, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old Indian engineer, was shot dead by a US national, Adam Purinton, in a bar in Kansas.
On March 2, Harnish Patel, a US national of Indian origin, was shot dead by unknown individuals in Lancaster, South Carolina.
On March 4, Deep Rai, also a US national of Indian origin, was shot by an unknown person near Seattle, allegedly after being asked to leave the country.
“The government has taken up this issue with the US government at very high levels and conveyed our deep concerns. We have called for necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of Indian Diaspora and expeditious investigation into these incidents,” she said in her statement earlier.
She pointed out that President Donald Trump said on February 28 that the US “stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms”.
“Several Senators and Congressmen have also expressed their condolences and regret over the tragic incidents. They have been deeply appreciative of the contribution and role of the Indian community in the US.
Parliament was informed on Monday that the US had told India that there was no significant change in its H1-B visa regime.
Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha during Question Hour that India is vigorously articulating its concerns on visa policy to the new American administration, which has assured there is no significant change in the H1-B visa regime.
“The fear, at least for 2017, is not proved to be correct. They (US authorities) are saying their current priority is to deal with the illegal immigrants,” Sitharaman said.
The issue was also taken up recently with the visiting Congressional delegation led by Bob Goodlatte, as well as during the visit of Commerce Secretary and Foreign Secretary to the US during the first week of March 2017, she said.