WASHINGTON: Newly anointed US President, Donald Trump, called Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday on phone. Since then, the Indian media seems to be on cloud nine, trying to highlight the fact that the call was made before Trump had dialed any other number in Europe, or even didn’t call Putin, who many believe is like his bosom pal.
While the text of the telephone conversation hasn’t been made public thus far, the two leaders reportedly discussed the security situation in South and Central Asia.
It must be noted here that Trump gave a great advantage to China merely a day ago by pulling out of Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP. Before the US pulled out of the trade deal, the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership had twelve nations onboard and covered as much as 40% of the world’s economic output. With the United States out of the picture and China having been refuted entry, it is now a miniaturized version of what it was initially expected to be. Now China is expected to fill the void by expanding its own trade block that will completely eclipse the TPP.
White House later said that among the various topics that came up during their talks extending cooperation in various sectors, especially the military was discussed. “President Trump emphasised that the United States considers India a true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world,” the White House said. The significance of US’ partnership with India was reflected in the fact that President Trump called Prime Minister Modi before he spoke with important allies like Britain, Germany and Japan or major powers like China and Russia since formally taking office last Friday.
Meanwhile Indian officials suggest that during the telephonic conversation President Trump invited PM Modi to visit him later this year. In tweets this morning, Prime Minister Modi said he too has invited the US President to India. President Pranab Mukherjee had also invited Donald Trump to visit India when he congratulated him on assuming the presidency. The real estate investor-turned-politician has visited India several times for business.
Trump and Modi are also reported to have discussed ways in which the economic cooperation and trade could be strengthened, however, the statement did not give details of what they might have discussed in this regard. Based on his campaigns and speeches, President Trump and PM Modi appear to have parallel priorities of job creation, especially through manufacturing, and increasing investments which seem to be headed for a collision.
In the meantime, IT industry is apprehensive about the changes in the H-1B visa scheme that the new administration is set to make in the coming days. It is expected to badly impact the IT companies from India forcing them to hire more from within the US, instead of sending their own engineers from India and using them there. People were expecting Modi to raise the issue. But apparently it didn’t happen.
A report in the Voice of America says, “There is growing concern that India’s $150 billion information technology industry, which relies heavily on exports to the United States, could slow and become less competitive if the Trump administration tightens rules on hiring skilled foreign workers…Earlier this month, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress raising the minimum salary for positions granted under the H-1B visa scheme from $60,000 to $100,000 per year. Indian IT companies, which send hundreds of Indian tech professionals to the United States, are among the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B visa program, which allows foreign professionals to work in the United States”.