no official word

Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar (above) addresses a press conference, in New Delhi on June 6, 2019. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted earlier that 500 U.S. companies are operating in India and that the contribution of Indian Americans in the growth of the U.S. economy is also recognized. (IANS/MEA photo)

NEW DELHI – India June 20 said there was no official word from the U.S. on a "source-based" media report about capping of the H-1B visas, of which Indians are a major beneficiary.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar also said that India will take a decision, which is "guided by our economic and security considerations,” on the U.S. warning that Indian companies found supplying equipment or other products of American origin to Chinese mobile company Huawei or its units could face punitive action.

Addressing the media, he said all issues that are "on the table" will be discussed when U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travels here June 25-27, marking the first high-level visit from the U.S. since the new government was formed in India.

"Whatever issues exist, I think will be discussed appropriately," Kumar said on the talks that Pompeo will hold with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

"We are looking forward to visit... This is the first incoming high level visit after the polls.

"We look at this as an opportunity to discuss all the issues which will be on the table," he said.

Replying to questions, Kumar said it would be unfair to speculate about the issues that would be discussed or the outcome of the talks.

"Most of the issues under the bilateral framework will be discussed. Also, some discussion will take place on regional and global issues of mutual interest," he said.

In a report late June 20 from Washington, Reuters said that the Trump administration has no plans to cap H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally, citing a State Department spokeswoman’s statement.

Kumar added that relations with the U.S. are diverse and deep-rooted.

"But there will be issues. We should look at the relationship from overall perspective. The relationship remains very positive," the spokesperson said, citing a recent statement made by Pompeo, which articulated the "strength of the relationship.” 

The spokesperson said despite "trade issues,” bilateral trade has touched $150 billion.

"There has been growth every year in the last few years. Since 2001, there has been a seven-fold increase. It keeps growing," he added.

He noted that 500 U.S. companies are operating in India and that the contribution of Indian Americans in the growth of the U.S. economy is also recognized.

Besides, India has been granted the 'Major Defense Partner' status by the U.S., which has also supported India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, he said.

"Plenty of action is happening in bilateral relations," Kumar said.

Replying to a question on a media report, which suggested that the U.S. was going to cap the H-1B visa quota for India, the MEA spokesperson said: "It is a source-based report... We have not heard anything officially from the U.S. government on this matter. We remain engaged with the U.S. Administration and we remain engaged with the U.S. Congress on this matter."

He added that India has reiterated, from time to time, the contribution of Indians in the growth of the U.S. economy and "we will continue to do that.”

Replying to a question on the U.S. threat of punitive action to Indian companies found supplying equipment or other products of American origin to Huawei or its units, the spokesperson said: "It (the matter) is related to the Department of Technology. But it is being debated across continents."

IANS adds from New York: Ahead of his New Delhi visit, Pompeo called Jaishankar June 20 to convey "strong U.S. commitment to working closely with the new Indian government to advance our strategic partnership,” according to his spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

Pompeo congratulated Jaishankar on becoming the external affairs minister and discussed security and economic cooperation between the two countries with Jaishankar, she said in a statement.

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