NEW DELHI :
India on Thursday said it has not received any official communication from the US on possible caps on H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally.
Foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said New Delhi had not heard anything from any US official on the matter though India was aware of news reports stating such plans were afoot.
“There is no US official who has come up with this statement," Kumar said adding that “It is a source based report....we have not heard anything officially from the US government on this matter."
The comments follow a Reuters report on Wednesday which said Washington had told New Delhi about the restrictions on H-1B work visas—under which skilled foreign workers are brought to the US each year. The report came days ahead of a visit to New Delhi by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. India is looking forward to the visit which would be an “important opportunity to further strengthen the (India-US) strategic partnership," Kumar told reporters in New Delhi.
India, which has upset companies such as Mastercard and irked the US government with stringent new rules on data storage, is the largest recipient of these temporary H-IB visas, most of them to workers at big Indian information technology firms. If the caps come into place, Indian workers would be able to avail of only 10% and 15% of the annual quota. Currently, there is no country-specific limit on the 85,000 H-1B work visas granted each year, of which an estimated 70% go to Indians.
The warning comes amid rising trade tensions between India and the US in recent weeks with the imposition of tit-for-tat tariffs.
Kumar said India looked forward to discussing all issues under the bilateral framework with Pompeo when he arrives on a three-day visit on Tuesday.
Describing the relationship as “diverse and deep" he said, “there will be some (tricky) issues on the table at all points of time. We should look at the relationship from the overall perspective. The overall direction of the relationship remains very positive."
Warming of ties between the two countries in the past two decades have seen a deepening of cooperation in sensitive areas like military to military cooperation and counter terrorism. Since 2007, India has bought $16-$18 billion of US military hardware.
On news reports that the US had warned Indian companies of punitive action if they sell American products or equipment to China’s Huawei, Kumar said this was a subject that was being debated across continents and that India would take a final decision keeping its economic and security interests in mind.