Mukesh Aghi, chairman of the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF), expects the relationship between the US and India “to broaden, get deeper and stronger” under the Joe Biden administration.
Aghi is now waiting patiently with his wish list for the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to assume charge.
In an interview with indica News, Aghi, a recipient of the Indian government’s Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, shared his priorities, thoughts and views on topics ranging from trade to EdTech, GSP, H-1B visas, and the green card.
And he clearly stated that even though H-1B visa and the green card backlog would be among his main priorities he could not give an assurance on the removal of the country-wise cap on green cards.
“You have to look at the bigger picture first between the two countries and what you have is a strategic convergence taking place between India and the US from the geo-political perspective,” Aghi said.
“There is a rising China which is a kind of a threat to India and at the same time challenges the United States. So, there is a strategy of dealing with China’s aggressive behavior.”
“Then there is an economic convergence; what we are seeing is a lot of US companies in China are looking for conversion of the supply chain, and India becomes a potential site for them.
“Also, for US companies India becomes a potential growth market in the next 21 years,” he said.
And India is getting a lot of investment from the US on the technology side and from pharmaceutical companies.
He said: “40 percent of the generic drugs in the US are coming from India. And with the Covid crisis, India is the largest maker of vaccines so there is a convergence between India and the US.”
“I think I see a strong benefit for both countries to work together,” he said. “The question is how it would be different between the Biden administration and Trump.
“With Trump we had a very transactional approach to India, whereas with Biden we expect a multilateral, structural approach with India.”
“We expect the relationship to broaden, get deeper and stronger as Biden comes in,” said Aghi.
Asked what the Biden administration’s priorities would be, Aghi said: “You have to understand that the Biden administration’s next six months’ priority would be health and economy — combat the Covid-19 crisis and build a strong economic environment where jobs are created.”
How would it translate in the relationship with India? Aghi said that the US and India would “collaborate very much and on the economic area, India will push for a trade deal with the US.”
The H-1B visa program, he agreed, is a big issue.
“We have a shortage of million software engineers in the US, and we need to address that issue,” said Aghi. “So you will see that opening up.”
“I think the first six months we will focus on health care, economy and H-1B,” he said.
He said that there had arisen a sense of nationalism on health care — “that I am going to first inoculate my country rather than trying to work on how to help each other, such as an emerging market who doesn’t have the access to inoculation.”
“You can only deal with Covid-19 if it is dealt on a global basis because in the global traveling environment, if you fix it here and fix not there, then it goes back and forth and this virus mutates,” he stressed.
“It is important we have a global strategy on vaccination and that is why India-US can be very strong partners.”
ON GREEN CARDS
According to Cato , https://www.cato.org/blog/employment-based-green-card-backlog-hits-12-million-2020, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data from November 2020 showed that the green card backlog for employment-based immigrants in 2020 surpassed 1.2 million applicants, the highest number ever.
“Despite the infusion of new green cards in 2021, Indian employer-sponsored applicants face an 8-decade wait for green cards, and nearly 200,000 will die before they could even theoretically reach the front of the line,” the report said.
Aghi said the per-country quota for green cards had to go.
“We are saying every PhD graduating with STEM degree in the US be given a green card as they graduate because we have dire shortage of STEM leaders in the country, and this would help solving that issue,” Aghi said.
He, however, would not promise that it will happen.
“You can’t give assurance because you have so many moving parts that needs alignments together and all we can give assurance is that we will put a lot of energy behind it [pushing for lifting of the cap per country] because you have a government under Biden which is much more receptive to this issue.
“And I think we can’t afford to miss this opportunity and come to a closure. It is tough to give a guarantee because there are so many different issues in play,” he added.
“We have to keep on dragging the agenda. You don’t give up because the moment you give up then I think you lost the battle and the war.”
Don’t miss the second part of the conversation tomorrow, in which Mukesh Aghi talks about India’s new controversial farm laws, challenges and opportunities including edtech.