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Rao meets Clinton, Jones; conveys India's concerns on H1B issue

India has conveyed its concerns to the US over the H-1B visa fee hike during foreign secretary Nirupama Rao's talks with top American officials focussing on President Obama's November visit to the country.

twitter-logoPTI | September 20, 2010 | Updated 15:22 IST

India has conveyed its concerns to the US over the H1B visa fee hike and exchanged views on issues like UNSC expansion and nuclear liability bill during Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's talks with top American officials focussing on President Barack Obama's November visit to the country.

Rao's meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser Gen (Retd) James Jones and other key officials of the Obama Administration here yesterday "laid the foundation" of a successful Presidential visit to India in early November, the White House said.

After her meeting with Jones at the White House, National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Mike Hammer told PTI that "both agreed that the vast range of cooperation between us would set the foundation for a successful presidential visit and further our strategic partnership."

Noting that the Rao-Jones meeting was held to continue preparations for the US President's upcoming visit to India in early November, Hammer said: "In addition, General Jones and Rao discussed other developments in the South Asia region, noting our mutual desire for stability."

Besides driving down to the White House for her meeting with Jones, Rao spent most of her day on Friday at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, where she had a series of meetings on issues ranging from the bilateral ties, situation in the region, India's role at the global level to the expansion of the UN Security Council.

However, all these meetings were focussed on the early November visit of Obama to India.

On the Clinton-Rao meeting, State Department spokesman P J Crowley said the Secretary of State held talks with Rao along with her top aides like Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake.

They discussed the latest developments in the US-India relationship and preparations for the President's trip to India later this year, he said.

After Rao's meetings, a senior Indian official said the deliberations reflected the "transformational" relationship between India and the United States. There is a convergence of views and strategic interest on a wide range of global issues.

At the same time, officials of both countries conveyed their respective concerns during the meeting.

While India was quick to raise the issue of H-1B and other perceived protectionist measures of the US in the recent past, the US spoke of its dissatisfaction over the Nuclear Liability Bill that was recently passed by Parliament and said it was incompatible with Convention on Supplementary Compensation(CSC).

The Indian delegation told the US it believed that the Nuclear Liability Bill was consistent with the CSC and categorically ruled out making any change to the text of the legislation passed by Parliament.

While the US was supportive of India's desire to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, officials said the Obama Administration was unlikely to "endorse" New Delhi for this place in the near future as it had done for Japan.

The Indian delegation urged the US to resolve the H-1B visa issue as soon as possible.

"It would be good for the relationship if it (H1B issue) is sorted out earlier," the US side was told during the meetings, according to the Indian official.

However, there was no immediate commitment from the US on this issue, which has now been left to Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who are scheduled to meet in Washington next week.

Rao's meetings also gave a sense that the Obama Administration was determined to take the Indo-US relationship to a new level of strategic partnership and working to make the Presidential visit a "milestone" of these emerging ties between the two largest democratic countries of the world, the official said.

The Indian delegation is also understood to have brought to the notice of the US officials the recent Pakistani statements on Kashmir as it was an internal matter of India, continued infiltration into Kashmir, the issue of cross- border terrorism and painfully slow progress in bringing to book those responsible for the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

During the meetings, US officials are believed to have praised constructive Indian role in Afghanistan and urged New Delhi to "step-up" its cooperation in the war-torn country.

India, on the other hand, expressed concern that any "US exit" from Afghanistan at this point of time or even in the near future would strengthen the terrorist organisations and extremist elements in the region, which it feels would not be good for the security of the United States, European countries and India as well.

The issue of increased assertiveness of China in the Indian Ocean and Asia was also discussed during these meetings.

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