Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala wondered why Prime Minister Modi was "silent" on his "India First" policy as President Trump talked of "America First".
A day ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to India, the Congress on Sunday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi whether he would raise with him the issue of easing of the H-1B visas for Indians, the restoration of GSP status and the security concerns vis-a-vis the Taliban.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala wondered why Prime Minister Modi was “silent” on his “India First” policy as President Trump talked of “America First”. He asked whether Modi would ensure cheaper oil for India after it stopped buying oil from Iran in view of US-imposed sanctions and if Indian steel exports would get a boost when New Delhi commits to USD 3 billion in defence purchases.
“As President Trump arrives tomorrow on February 24, relevant questions on national interest must be asked by every Indian and resolved amicably in India’s interests,” Surjewala said in a video. He said the Trump government’s restrictive immigration policies have clamped down on H-1B visas and one should not forget that 70 per cent of all H-1B visas are given to Indian professionals — IT and others.
The number of Indians getting visas is 60,000, who go to the US to contribute to the American economy as also back home to India’s economy, he said. “Trump government’s restrictive immigration policies have hit H-1B visas. Indians get 70 pc of 85,000 H-1B visas. Now, Rejection Rate for India has increased from 6 pc in 2015 to 24 pc in 2019, especially for IT professionals.
“Post the ’10-million people’ gala event, will Prime Minister Modi take care of national interest and tell President Trump to go easy and permit H-1B visas for Indians, so that our young Indians, our IT professional can contribute to America’s growth as also to India’s growth story,” Surjewala asked.
He said as the US prepares to sign a deal with the Taliban on February 29, what about India’s red lines. “Have we forgotten IC-814 hijacking and release of terrorist Masood Azhar in Kandhar, who’s JeM then attacked Parliament and Pulwama? As gala bash unfolds, Will Modiji raise our national security concerns,” he said.
“We sincerely hope India’s interests will not be compromised on account of a deal in Afghanistan,” Surjewala said India must also raise its concern about any such deal respecting and honouring the democratic and constitutional process including the just-elected Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan.
“What about the new deal and the new Taliban respecting the democratic process as also the human rights and rights of women in Afghanistan? What about this new deal not creating a space for the terror network thriving in Afghanistan,” he asked, citing the Islamic State, the ‘Haqqani’ network, the Al Qaeda and the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
The Congress leader said the US removed India from the duty-free imports regime i.e GSP (generalised system of preferences) in June last year, hitting USD 5.6 billion Indian exports to the US. “Post ‘Howdy Modi’ and ‘Namaste Trump’ gala events, Will PM ensure restoration of GSP status,” he asked. “As fest continues in Ahmedabad, Will Modiji secure cheaper oil for India,” he added.
The Congress leader alleged that India’s exports of USD 761 million of steel to the US fell by 50 pc to USD 372 million as the Trump government hiked tariffs on import by 25 pc.
“As India commits to USD 3 billion defence purchases, why zero relief for India’s export of steel,” he asked.
“I think it needs to be resolved in favour of India’s steel industry, in favour of getting more revenue, in favour of creating more employment,” Surjewala said.
US President Trump is on a visit to India from February 24 and 25.