Trump and Modi: New Agendas, Newer Challenges

With the H1-B visa curbs on top of Trump’s agenda and Make in India’s striving efforts to invite investments, Indian tech firms are assessing their future.

A bamboozled future is what it can be called at the best. Indian engineers qualifying from the current year onwards have good reasons to be unhappy. Trump’s promises and upcoming policies are to be blamed, yet again. One of the most important promises based on which Trump won votes was to curb the abuse of the H-1B visa program in order to protect the American worker. Since US technology firms rely largely on non-American engineers, a large part of them being Indian, the future looks complicated for thousands of US aspirants. On the other side of the globe, there are more reasons to be happy. India is pushing its ‘Make in India’ initiative, targeting countries that are willing to come and invest. American tech firms’ investments are not new in India; they have increased especially after the first H-1B visa curb in 2004 that reduced the number of non-American employees in US tech firms from 195,000 to 65,000. Most outsourcing centres established in India by US firms were the result of the visa curb, because of cost considerations. 2004 may not be a reclusive event, after all. If the recent visa curb repeats, the actions of 2004, it certainly can prove to be beneficial in terms of inward investments.

Trump’s visa curbs could presumably not come suddenly, but with stages of restrictive measures, and with it can emerge the desire of US tech firms to invest in India to utilise a larger talented workforce instead of a meagre 65,000. Despite this fixated anticipation, India tech firms will suffer a blow of restrictions to work in the US; the quality of work experience in the US seems superior currently.

For Indian students studying in the US, about 132,888 who have enrolled in 2015, will find it difficult to stay on until an employer sponsors their H-1B visa. The rule of one year of work-experience after a degree, following which the employer is required to sponsor an applicant’s H-1B visa is also paltry, looking at the demand in the US economy. These equations would be worked out in trade talks, once Trump takes up official presidency.

The Make in India initiative is for inviting international investments, and Trump’s visa curbs are about cutting inflow of international talent to save the erosion of American jobs. The two agendas are admirable in their own sense and indicate nouveau leadership agendas of the two economies. However, considering India as one of the closest Asian partners of the US and Trump’s soft corner for India and its people, the anticipated visa blows could become softer with time, and trade relationships are expected to prosper. There could be a stage-wise implementation of the visa curbs, which may include higher fees for employers sponsoring Indian techies, or a compulsion to test American workers first for a position before hiring non-Americans, etc. Meanwhile, protests from American firms remain strong, with Disney protesting the violation of H-1B visa program by TCS and Infosys last year. Indian tech firms will in all probability, look for alternative options for spreading its talented workforce and for revenue diversification; they may plan to reach out for new partners in Europe and other Asian countries. It remains to be seen whether long term relationships take precedence over minor matters of visa curbs, because US Indian relationship is on an escalated trajectory, from which both would not intend to reverse.

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