India to US: don’t set back IT success story, ease visas

Washington: Voicing concern over protectionism, India has asked the US to address issues faced by Indian IT professionals, who pay $15 billion in taxes, and reminded Washington that this "success story" should not be set back by stringent visa regulations. "We do hope the current economic challenges in the US would not lead to protectionism and that concerns of Indian IT industry will be addressed quickly," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said Monday at at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a US think tank.

Mathai, who is on his first visit to the US as foreign secretary, was speaking on "Building on Convergences: Deepening India-U.S. Strategic Partnership."

Reminding Washington of the contribution of the Indian IT industry and its role in building robust India-US relations, Mathai said the Indians industry employs over 100,000 in the US, up from 20,000 six years ago.

"It supports 200,000 other jobs, including indirect ones, apart from enhancing the competitiveness of some US industries. Most Indian companies are setting up development centers. Indian IT industry contributed $15 billion in taxes over the last 5 years," he said.

"This success story should not be set back by stringent visa regulations which act as a non-tariff barrier," he stressed.

Alluding to over $200 million paid by Indian IT professionals going to the US in visa fees, Mathai said: "Perhaps $30-$50 million has been taken from young aspiring Indians working in businesses whose US visas were rejected. The pink slip has become a greenback!"

"It needs reiteration that the targets of these discriminatory actions are precisely those who have contributed intellectually to the climate of reform in India, and who have been votaries of strong India-US relations," he said.

Calling for deepening of economic ties between India and the US, Mathai said the two countries should not only focus on expanding trade and investment, but also "use the power of innovation to make our economies global leaders in the 21st century."

India and the US can and must strengthen their economic partnership, he said. The flow of trade in goods and services, and investments in both directions has grown several times in the past two decades increasing to $40 billion of US imports, both goods and services.

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