Indo-U.S. Partnership: Increased Trade, Possible Impact on H-1B, Fight Global Terrorism

Within a week of U.S. President Donald Trump taking charge, he spoke to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on strengthening Indo-U.S. partnership. Trump has always been optimistic about joining hands with India. On their call, Trump and Modi were said to have discussed opportunities to bolster their ties on defense, technology and energy industries. While the U.S. plans to increase manufactured exports to India in those sectors, India will have an opportunity to take advantage of Trump’s move away from China and increase its own manufactured exports. This would help create jobs in both countries and enable both leaders to achieve their agenda of ‘America First’ and ‘Make In India, respectively. Trump emphasized one of his campaign goals is “Buy American, Hire American.” Modi has taken steps to ensure his ‘Make In India’ initiative is gaining momentum. Both nations can mutually benefit from “Make in India” and “Make in America” domestic manufacturing programs. Trade between the two countries has grown five-fold in the last decade to more than $100 billion dollars.

But Trump’s ‘Buy American and Hire American’ agenda has many high skilled H-1B aspirants stressed. Indian and other companies in the U.S. rely heavily on H-1B employees. This allows foreign workers to fill skill gaps in the US workforce. Critics argue the system is being exploited to recruit cheaper foreign workers. Trump wants to reform this visa so companies will not exploit the option. New laws would likely result in robust restrictions targeting foreign firms in India’s $108 billion outsourcing industry. This could impact a majority of U.S. aspirants in India. Among other provisions, it would require that rather than H-1Bs being awarded to aspirants outside the U.S.; the government would be required to prioritize the top foreign students who have studied in the U.S. These would include advanced degree holders, those earning a high wage and those with valuable skills. This bill has to be approved by the Congress and President Trump, though he can use his discretion. He could use an executive directive to tighten the U.S.’s Optional Practical Training (OPT) program as well. The OPT program gives foreign graduates in fields like science, technology, engineering or math the right to find jobs in the U.S. for up to 36 months, depending on their degree subject

Besides trade, the two leaders affirmed their support in fighting global terrorism together. They spoke about security in South and Central Asia that includes Pakistan and Afghanistan. Modi tweeted that he had a “warm conversation” with the President and said the pair had agreed to work closely in the coming days to further strengthen bilateral ties. He added that he had invited Trump to visit India.

President Obama once said India and the United States would form the “defining partnership” of the 21st century. “Trump emphasized that the United States considers India a true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world,” the White House said. The new US leader also said he was looking forward to welcoming Modi in the US later this year. Modi is a frequent visitor to the US; he’s made four official visits since he assumed office in 2014. Last June marked the seventh time he had met former President Barack Obama.