US Ambassador reassures Indians on H-1B visa fears

Kenneth I Juster

The US will not tolerate cross-border terrorism or terrorist safe havens anywhere, its newly- appointed Ambassador Kenneth Juster said on Thursday, asserting that $ 2 billion military aid to Pakistan was suspended as America felt "they have not done as much as they could in eliminating terror sanctuaries" there. He said India could become "an alternative hub for USA business in the Indo-Pacific region". Accordingly, some companies are downgrading their operations there, while others are looking with great interest in alternative markets. Juster said, "US is probably as open a country as any in the world and we probably take more immigrants per year compared to any other country. I don't think we are going to get stability and security in Afghanistan if Pakistan does not contribute positively to that", Envoy Juster said, in his inaugural policy speech on US-India relations here.

The US envoy took to the occasion to state that the increased heft in our economic relationship would necessarily provide a broader and deeper, long-term USA commitment to India and the Indo-Pacific region.

Pointing out that "America First" and "Make in India" are not incompatible, Juster said rather investing in each other's markets will be mutually beneficial.

"India is a leading power in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond".

Bilateral trade has increased from approximately $ 20 billion in 2001 to $ 115 billion in 2016.

Going a step further, Juster said, "it is time to put a strategic lens on our economic relationship - just as we have done with our defense relationship".

The US government is planning a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India in an effort to boost two-way trade that now stands at $115 billion. "And we want to work with India to expeditiously resolve trade and investment disputes", he said.

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Turning his attention to the Asia-Pacific region, he noted its importance and said that the United States in its National Security Strategy had identified India as a "leading power" in the region.

Every year, the U.S. grants 85,000 H-1B visas to highly skilled applicants, including roughly 70 per cent for Indians, seeking employment and educational opportunities.

"The US is a country of immigrants and that's what helped drive our economy and our growth and made us what we are".

He also said the Indo-US ties would grow and that both countries need to continue to have confidence and trust in each other and not be anxious about the future of the relationship.

When asked about Sino-US ties, Juster noted, "We are interested in a constructive relationship".

In his first public speech after taking over as the ambassador in November, he said an equally important objective is to continue support to India as a net provider of regional security, "capable of responding successfully to threats to peace", especially in the Indian Ocean and its vicinity.

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