Obama visit an opportunity to raise India Inc’s concerns

Source: ET Bureau

US President Barack Obama’s visit may not really go down in history as the time when hard issues were discussed, however, it could still provide an opportunity to bring up some of the concerns of India Inc .

“The new US Border Security Act has raised H1B and L1 visa fees for many Indian IT companies. During discussions on the Bill, Indian IT giant Infosys was referred to as a ‘chop shop’ by Democrat Senator Charles E Schumer. Indian IT industry has contributed significantly towards building up the Indian brand and the Indian government should use the US President’s visit as an opportunity to discuss the issues around the Border Security Act,” says Sanjay Puri, chairman and founder of US India Political Action Committee, the organization representing the concerns and issues of Indian Americans on Capitol Hill and the White House.

There have been indications that the US President will explore ways in which Indian and US companies can collaborate on innovation for benefit to both the countries. Suresh Kumar, assistant secretary for trade promotion and director general of the US & foreign commercial service, US department of commerce, who was in India recently has indicated that business innovation is likely to be among the key themes during President Obama’s interactions with business leaders and government officials.

“Innovation means free movement of goods, services and people across the borders and at this point such a discussion with the US would open a Pandora’s box. Visa related issues would definitely come up,” says Puri.

Indian and American IT companies are hoping that some progress is made on the totalisation treaty between the two countries during President Obama’s visit—some even hope that it will be signed. There had been early indications from the commerce ministry and the ministry of overseas Indian affairs that the totalisation pact, which will enable expatriate workers in both countries to repatriate social security contribution, would be signed during the visit. If signed, the deal will come as a shot in the arm for IT companies who now have to pay social security contributions for their employees, who cannot avail themselves of the benefit in the US. However, it is still not clear whether the agreement is on the cards yet.

Indian IT entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are not very hopeful of any major milestones being reached during President Obama’s India visit. “The President and many in his administration have been making statements keeping in mind the domestic election year situation, which do not sound very good for India. However, there’s a wealth of knowledge and talent available in India that cannot be denied,” says Hatim Tyabji, a Silicon Valley based serial entrepreneur and CEO of Byte Mobile, which is based in California and has operations in India.

On the geo-political front, experts are of the opinion that India should talk about the right to know about the situation in Afghanistan and America’s defence assistance to Pakistan . “These are important issues that should be on the table during the President’s visit,” says Puri. The Sino-Indian issues too are likely to figure in discussions between the US and India during the Presidential visit.

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