Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar on Thursday said United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be visiting the country between June 25 and June 27. The announcement comes at a time when media reports claimed the US was considering a cap on H-1B visas – a move that is likely to impact Indians seeking employment opportunities in the country.
“We look upon the visit as an important opportunity for both sides to further strengthen the India-US strategic partnership and continue high-level engagement on matters of mutual interest, including bilateral, regional and global issues,” Kumar said at a media briefing. He added that this was the first top-level engagement between India and the US after the Lok Sabha elections.
Kumar also addressed queries over media reports on the cap on H-1B work visas, saying that the US government had not apprised them of the development. “There is no [official] report as such. There is no United States official who has come up with a statement,” the spokesperson said. “It is a source-based report. We remain engaged with the US administration, we remain engaged with the Congress on this issue.”
An exclusive report in Reuters on Wednesday quoted unidentified senior Indian government officials as saying that they were briefed last week on a US government plan to cap H-1B visas issued each year to Indians between 10% and 15% of the annual quota. At present, there is no country-specific limit on the 85,000 H-1B work visas granted every year, but an estimated 70% of the visas go to Indians.
Pompeo’s visit comes before the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, that is scheduled from June 28 to June 29. The US secretary of state will also meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar among other dignitaries, Kumar said.
On the topic of data localisation, Kumar said that the two countries are constantly consulting on the matter. He added that despite talks of trade disputes, bilateral trade has increased to $150 billion.
The relations between the two countries have been tense after India placed retaliatory tariffs on 28 products imported from the US. In March, Trump had announced his decision to remove India from the Generalized System of Preferences programme.