Singapore, July 11 (IANS) With US President Donald Trump withdrawing his country from the Paris climate agreement and calling for stricter norms for issuance of H1-B visas, the US is reframing its terms of engagement with the world, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said on Tuesday.
“The big question today in the world is the global strategic approach of the United States,” Jaishankar said in his address to mark 25 years of India-Singapore bilateral relationship at the Lee Kuan Yew School here.
“This matters to India as much as it does to Asean (Associaion of Southeast Asian Nations) nations, and indeed to the entire world. There seem to be a number of parallel processes at work,” he said.
“The United States is, generally speaking, reframing its terms of engagement with the world.”
Jaishankar’s comments came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington last month where he met Trump for the first time after the latter assumed office in January this year.
In a move that drew worldwide criticism, Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 Paris climate agreement that was endorsed by Modi, then US President Barack Obama and his then French counterpart Francois Hollande.
At the G20 Summit in Hamburg last week, leaders of the grouping asserted that the Paris agreement was irreversible.
Trump also drew deep concerns in India when he said that he wanted to make acquiring H-1B visas tougher, a move that is likely to impact Indian IT firms operating in the US.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on March 31 issued a clarification that computer programmers, to be eligible under the H-1B visa norms, must prove that theirs is a specialty occupation. Merely obtaining a computer degree may not be enough.
Meanwhile, a private member’s bill was also introduced in the US Congress by Democrat Zoe Lofgren which seeks to increase the minimum salary of an H1-B visa holder to a whopping $130,000 from the current minimum of $60,000.
“In some arenas, there may be a redefinition of its (US’) objectives,” Jaishankar said.
“In others, we may be looking at a redrawing of its posture. At the same time, let us be clear what is not happening: the US is not withdrawing from the world.”
The Indian Foreign Secretary said that, on the contrary, the US was “seeking to get what it hopes to be a better deal from the rest of the world”.
“These are still early days. It is important not to jump to conclusions,” said Jaishankar, a former India Ambassador to the US.
“The continued presence of the United States in the Asia-Pacific is an important factor in the calculations of all nations. Developing a nuanced understanding of the unfolding situation is a must for policy makers, as well as analysts.”