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New Delhi: The crisis caused by the coronavirus disease, visas for Indian professionals in the US and the peace process in Afghanistan were some of the issues discussed during a teleconference call between Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar and his US counterpart Mike Pompeo on Tuesday.

A readout of the discussion released by the US State Department said that Jaishankar and Pompeo had discussed “coordination of efforts to respond to COVID-19".

“The Secretary highlighted the importance of continued close cooperation between the United States, India, and other close partners and allies to combat this international crisis, including strengthening global pharmaceutical and healthcare manufacturing and supply chains," the US readout said.

Pompeo also underlined the US “unwavering commitment to work with India to advance peace, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific and around the globe", it added.

In New Delhi, a person familiar with the development said Jaishankar spoke about visas for Indian professionals many of whom are in the IT sector. Many of the Indian IT professionals sign up for the H1-B visa that allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. There has been concern in India over moves in the US to cut the number of H1-B visas as well as impose stricter qualification rules for those applying for the visas.

Jaishankar and Pompeo also spoke of the peace process in Afghanistan which seems to be moving into the next phase after seemingly hitting a roadblock after Afghan president Ashraf Ghani refused to release 5,000 Taliban-held prisoners. The release of the 5,000 and the freeing of a separate 1,000 Afghan security force personnel in Taliban custody was a key element of the 29 February pact signed by the US and the Taliban. The February pact is to help the US reduce its troop numbers in Afghanistan from their current levels of approximately 13,000 to 8600.

On Thursday, the Ghani government announced a peace team to open intra-Afghan dialogue with the Taliban. The team is headed by Masoom Stanekzai, a former chief of the National Directorate of Security and supporter of President Ashraf Ghani. It also includes politicians, former officials and representatives of civil society. Five members in the team are women.

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