PM Modi discussed ‘spirit’ of H1B visas with Donald Trump: Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the “spirit” of H1B visa with President Donald Trump during their recent meeting and made him agree on crucial contribution of the Indian skilled professionals to the US economy, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said today.

Answering questions in the Rajya Sabha over H1B visa restrictions imposed by the US, Swaraj said Trump has admitted that the contribution of the Indian professionals was benefitting both the countries and “if they (US) harm their (professionals’) interests, then it will in turn affect them (US).”

Talking about the meeting between Modi and Trump last month in Washington, she said, “without using the word H1B, there was extensive discussion” on the “spirit” behind such visas.

“I take pride is saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully convinced Trump to admit that Indian skilled professionals have a big contribution in strengthening the US economy,” she told the House where Modi was present.

Swaraj said though the word H1B was not used, the joint Indo-US statement issued after talks between Modi and Trump starts with “applauding” the contribution of Indian IT professionals.

Congress leader Anand Sharma and CPI-M’s Tapan Kumar Sen wanted to know whether Modi specifically raised the issue of H1B issue with Trump.

Sen said the spirit of the assurance on H1B was not matching with the ground realities as IT companies were hiring in the US and laying off people in India. Swaraj said she would make a detailed statement on the issue of H1B visas in the House later.

Earlier, V Maitreyan (AIADMK) raised the issue of visas and asked the government to elaborate on the issue. He also welcomed Modi’s visit to the US as also to Israel.

To another question from D Raja of CPI about India resorting to increased defence purchases from the US, Swaraj said the present government was the first since 1952 to take steps towards self-reliance in defence production, including by opening up the sector to 100 percent FDI.

“Earlier governments have come in, which you have also supported, did not take steps in this regard,” the minister told Raja.

“Did any FDI come in? How will there be self-reliance? You need money, you need to set up factories. This is the first government that has allowed 100 percent FDI. The governments you supported never took steps towards self reliance,” she said.

Responding to Swaraj’s contention, Anand Sharma (Cong) said while earlier transfer of technology and offset was allowed, the BJP-led government had stopped such efforts.

To a question on whether India was seeking advanced border fencing technology from Israel, Swaraj said Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held detailed discussions on counter-terrorism and Israel does not have any problem in transfer of technology.

“Prime Minister Modi held detailed discussions on every issue with prime minister Netanyahu,” she said, adding that discussions during a dinner hosted by the Israeli PM lasted till 2:30 am. She underlined that Israel has well-advanced technology in the fields of security and defence.