By Arul Louis
New York: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took up the issues of H1B visas and the rights of illegal immigrant children when she met with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday morning.
Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet that Sushma Swaraj “strongly raised the issue of H1B visa and children falling under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy with Secretary Tillerson”.
He also said the two of them “discussed regional issues, with a focus of Pakistan, Afghanistan and terrorism” and “reviewed all aspects all the bilateral relationship, including expanding our trade and investment relations.”
A State Department statement said that they “looked forward to convening a 2+2 dialogue” with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Defence Secretary James Mattis in the near future.
The statement said that Tillerson thanked Sushma Swaraj “for India’s contributions to stability and development in Afghanistan and the region”.
In speech on new Afghanistan policy last month, US President Donald Trump had said a “critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India”.
He also asked for more help from India in Afghanistan, where he was recalibrating US policy.
Another topic that came up in their discussions between Sushma Swaraj and Tillerson was the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), which the two countries are to co-host in Hyderabad, in November, the State Department said.
Trump’s daughter and his official adviser, Ivanka, who is to lead the US delegation to the summit also met Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday.
This was the first one-on-one meeting between the top diplomats of the two countries since Tillerson, a former head of the oil giant Exxon Mobil, became Secretary of State.
On Monday both of them had participated in a trilateral meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.
It was not clear what Sushma Swaraj wanted done about the H1B, a category of temporary visas for professionally qualified people, as there has as yet been no changes to that visa system.A
While Trump has spoken of restricting the H1B visa system as part of his policy of putting Americans first, so far there have been no changes to it and for this year the same levels of 65,000 for general H1B visas and 20,000 for those with advanced US degrees have been kept.
Indians get most of the H1B visas, although it does not have any national quotas or is specifically designed for Indians.
According to some estimates, about 7,000 Indians are covered by DACA, a presidential order issued by then President Barack Obama to allow those who were brought in illegally as children to stay on in the US.
Trump had said that he was not going to renew the DACA order, which will expire next March, and wanted Congress to legislate it into law.
He has since said that he may reconsider it if Congress had not passed the law by then.