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Curtailing immigration to the US would hurt the country, says top strategist Richard Haass

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Haass says Indian immigrants are important to US economy, and hopes the Indian govt will raise the issue of H-1B visas with the US.

New Delhi: American diplomat and top strategic thinker Richard Haass, a principal adviser to secretary of state Colin Powell during George W. Bush’s first stint in the White House, believes the Trump government’s standpoint on immigration will hurt the United States.

Though the bilateral relationship between India and the US has been on a high of late, the H-1B visa issue has been a constant irritant amid efforts in the US to curb its grant to lower immigration.

Haass told ThePrint that immigration was one of the reasons the United States economy was successful. “I’m a great believer of immigration into the Unites States,” he said, “It’s not even close to being a security threat or an economic problem to the country.”

“Indians have been a part of that, particularly in recent years,” he added, “So I would like to see legal immigration expanded.”

“This is something I hope the Indian government raises with the United States, because this ought to be a win-win,” Haass said.

Trump has never minced words in voicing his dislike for immigration, often targeting the H-1B visa programme used by lakhs of high-skilled Indians, especially engineers, to pursue the American dream. According to recent reports, getting the visa is already tougher under the Trump administration.

However, a new law introduced by a Republican senator seeks to increase the number of H-1B visas granted annually and scrap the per-country cap for employment-based green cards, which puts populous countries like India and China on waiting lists 10-15 years long.

An ‘underdeveloped relationship’

Haass, who, under the presidency of George H.W. Bush, served as senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs on the staff of the National Security Council from 1989 to 1993, also weighed in on the India-Pakistan relationship.

He said India-Pakistan ties were “underdeveloped”, adding that the US could encourage New Delhi to adopt a more generous stance vis-a-vis Islamabad.

Conceding that India could not pursue a better relationship with Pakistan without reciprocation, Haass said the US had tried “influencing” Pakistan through sanctions and shows of support, but failed to achieve anything concrete.

He discouraged worry about China’s growing involvement in Pakistan, saying one should keep an “open mind” about it as it could prove positive in the long run. “China has no interest in a Pakistan that destablises south Asia, much less parts of China itself,” he added.

The Quad

A recent diplomatic development that has stoked much curiosity is the revival last year, after a decade, of the ‘Quad’, an informal alliance between India, the US, Japan and Australia, with some terming the grouping a bid to contain China.

Haass, however, said the Quad was simply a group of like-minded countries working together for a better regional environment. Terming the Quad a “healthy development”, he said the group didn’t need to define itself as “anti-China”.

“The Quad can simply stand for certain principles,” he said. Listing the exchange of intelligence, participation in military operations, and greater economic interactions as goals the Quad should pursue, he said the grouping could create a regional environment that China could one day join.

“We want to have a race to the top, not a race to the bottom,” he added. According to Haass, the alliance was indicative of the kind of groupings the world will see in the 21st century.

On Rex Tillerson

Earlier this week, US President Trump fired his secretary of state Rex Tillerson. It was nearly six months ago that Haass had called for Tillerson’s resignation over his uneasy relationship with Trump.

“The reason I had called for the secretary of state to resign is because I thought he couldn’t be effective given the fact that the President had tweeted things to undermine him,” Haass said. “And no secretary of state can be effective if he is not seen to have the backing of the President of the United States.”

Haass said Tillerson, the ex-CEO of ExxonMobil, had never established a close working relationship with Trump, which is why he “wasn’t successful in government”. “It’s not surprising that it came to this,” he said.

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