PM Modi to raise H-1B visa issue with Donald Trump during US visit, says Sushma Swaraj
New Delhi: Ahead of an expected meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump later this month, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday rejected the US leader’s claim that India signed the Paris climate deal to get “billions and billions” of dollars in foreign aid.
“What Trump said is not the reality,” Swaraj said. “We have signed the Paris climate deal not under any pressure nor for any money...to say we did it for money, I totally reject that,” she said.
Acknowledging frictions in ties, including those due to plans by the US to reduce the number of slots for H-1B visas used mainly by Indian IT workers, Swaraj said: “The relationship between India and the US, they (US) are looking at it as a relationship of mutual benefit.”
She noted that Trump and Modi had spoken thrice after the former had assumed office on 20 January. She herself had spoken to her counterpart Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Swaraj said adding that the Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, had interacted with their counterparts in the US.
“Since the Trump administration’s assumption of office, ties have not flagged but have progressed with same pace as under the (previous) Obama administration,” Swaraj told reporters at a news conference to mark the completion of three years in office by the National Democratic Alliance government.
On the possible reduction in the number of H-1B visas—seen as an attempt to cut immigration as per Trump’s election promise—Swaraj termed it as “a matter of concern” that there were many statements emanating from the US on this matter. “I would like to assure the country that we are in touch with the members of the US Congress and the administration on this matter. When the prime minister travels there (later this month) this is one of the issues that he is planning to raise” with interlocutors there, Swaraj said.
Despite these differences, India-US cooperation in the Asia Pacific region and on strategic matters remains unaffected, Swaraj said, adding the US was India’s major defence partner and “We haven’t got any indication that they (the US) want to dilute this relationship.”
Modi is expected to travel to the US later this month to meet Trump, his first face-to-face talks with the US president who took office in January.
On Pakistan, when asked if Modi would meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif at the upcoming regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Astana in Kazakhstan, Swaraj said “No interaction has been yet talked of or even asked for, either by their side or our side.”
“Talks and terror cannot go on side by side,” she said referring to several attempts by India to restart talks in recent years that have been upset by attacks blamed on Pakistan-based terrorist groups.
In response to a question whether Pakistan could take the Kashmir dispute to the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) for resolution, Swaraj said that on the Kashmir dispute, India and Pakistan were bound by accords like the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration which committed both sides to resolving this issue bilaterally.
Last month, India approached the ICJ to ensure that Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav—arrested by Pakistan and sentenced to death by a military court on alleged charges of spying—was not executed. Critics had then argued that the Indian move could open the door for Pakistan to seek the intervention of the ICJ to resolve the Kashmir dispute.