Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla addresses a special press briefing on PM Modi's second day of engagements in the US on 25 September 2021 | Photo: Twitter/@ANI
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Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his first-ever in-person meeting with President Joe Biden raised a number of issues involving the Indian community in America, including access for Indian professionals in the US and speaking about the H-1B visas, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has said.

Prime Minister Modi described as “outstanding” his first bilateral meeting in the Oval Office with US President Joe Biden who said the Indo-US relationship is destined to be “stronger, closer and tighter.

The prime minister and his counterparts – Scott Morrison of Australia and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga also attended the meeting of Quad leaders hosted by US President Biden in the US capital on Friday.

He (Modi) spoke of the issue of getting access for Indian professionals to the United States. In that context he mentioned H-1B visa, Shringla told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

The most sought-after H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

He also spoke of the fact that many Indian professionals who work here contribute to Social Security. The return of those contributions in the United States is something that affects the number of Indian workers, Shringla said.

A fact sheet issued by the White House later said that the United States was proud to have issued a record 62,000 visas to Indian students so far in 2021. The nearly 200,000 Indian students in the United States contribute USD 7.7 billion annually to the US economy.

Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Programme worldwide, the programme has been bringing Americans and Indians closer together for 71 years since its launch in India.

In 2008, we welcomed India’s decision to jointly fund these fellowships with the United States, and renamed the program the Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship Program. Over 20,000 fellowships and grants have been awarded under this exchange programme, and the United States looks forward to building on these successes, it said.

Also read: Pakistan has been an ‘instigator’ of problems in India’s neighbourhood, Foreign Secretary Shringla says

The Partnership 2020 programme continues to foster higher education cooperation to promote economic growth and technological advances. In collaboration with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, this programme funds 15 research partnerships between US and Indian universities in the fields of advanced engineering, artificial intelligence, public health, and energy, among others, the White House said.

According to the White House, the upcoming launch of the US-India Alliance for Women’s Economic Empowerment a public-private partnership between the Department of State, USAID, the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, and George Washington University will help catalyse collaboration to advance women’s economic resilience and empowerment in India.

The US-funded Nexus startup and innovation hub showcases the best of American and Indian entrepreneurial innovation and technology commercialisation. Nexus serves as a central hub for entrepreneurs, innovators, faculty, industry players, and funding organisations interested in promoting Indian startups and the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, it said.

Since 2016, Nexus’s 138 graduates have raised over USD 19 million in outside funding and closed over 70 deals with many prominent Indian and US companies, it said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration works closely with Indian counterparts in areas such as ocean and fisheries science, meteorology, and earth observation, which helps us better understand climate change and save lives through improved weather modeling and information sharing, the White House said.

The US Department of Agriculture looks forward to cooperating with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research on climate-change issues related to agriculture through strategic research on crops, livestock, and fisheries, it said.

USAID looks forward to working with the Indian government on establishing the US-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation to promote initiatives and exchanges that honor both visionary leaders, it added.

Also read: Pakistan on Modi’s mind: PM ‘calls out’ neighbour in talks with Biden, hints at it in UN speech

Biden also reaffirmed the strength to defence relationship and his unwavering commitment to India as a major defence partner, Shringla said.

“President Biden reaffirmed the strength to the defence relationship and unwavering commitment to India as a major defense partner. The leaders welcomed the deepening of advanced industrial cooperation in the defence sector, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters at a joint news conference on Friday.

During the meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, he said, there was emphasis on co-developing, co-production and expanding the area of industrials cooperation in the defence sector.

Having concluded four major defence enabling agreements since 2016, the United States and India have made significant progress as Major Defense Partners and America looks forward to further increasing information sharing, bilateral and multilateral exercises, maritime security cooperation, liaison officer exchanges, and logistical cooperation, the White House said in a fact sheet.

In furtherance of the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), the United States and India agreed in July to a USD 22 million project to co-develop air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles. DTTI currently encompasses four working groups, and the next senior officials’ meeting later this year will further expand defence industrial collaboration, it said.

The United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Indian military, having offered state-of-the-art capabilities, such as the F/A-18, F-15EX, and F-21 fighter aircraft; MQ-9B unmanned aerial systems; the IADWS missile system; and additional P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, it said.

India’s premier strategic airlift capabilities enable its military to provide critical humanitarian relief and evacuation operations to the Indian Ocean region and beyond.

According to the fact sheet, the US Air Force and US firm Lockheed Martin (LM) recently concluded a USD 329 million contract to provide maintenance for India’s C-130J transport aircraft fleet.

This deal will help support jobs in both countries while enhancing India’s strategic airlift capabilities, it said.

The Indian Air Force operates the second-largest C-17 fleet in the world behind the United States, recently signing a USD 637 million extended maintenance contract with US firm Boeing that supports jobs in both countries, it said.

In June, Lockheed Martin delivered India’s first two MH-60R multi-mission maritime helicopters. These platforms were assembled in Troy, Alabama, as well as Stratford, Connecticut, and integrated in Owego, New York, and allow India access to the multi-role helicopter global supply chain.

As the second-largest operator of P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft in the world, India is a valued maritime partner in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. U.S. firm Boeing delivered the tenth P-8I aircraft to the Indian Navy in July 2021, and the 11th aircraft is expected to be delivered in October, the White House said.

In 2020, India and the United States renewed their commitment to supporting effective nuclear security globally, through India’s Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership and multilateral partners such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.

We will continue joint efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear materials, it said.—PTI

Also read: Quad a ‘force for peace’, say leaders in veiled dig at China, call Pakistan ‘instigator’


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