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Bridging The Gap
PM Narendra Modi to meet Donald Trump on June 26; H1-B visa, terrorism top agenda
  Wednesday 14 June, 2017
PM Narendra Modi to meet Donald Trump on June 26; H1-B visa, terrorism top agenda

New Delhi/Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to meet US President Donald Trump on June 26 at the White House.

PM Modi will on June 26 hold talks with President Trump on a range of issues, including terrorism and India's concerns over possible changes in H1-B visa rules, in their first bilateral meeting after the new administration took over in the US.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed the scheduled Modi-Trump meet.

"The President looks forward to discussing ways to strengthen ties between the United States and India and to advance our common priorities: fighting terrorism, promoting economic growth and reforms, and expanding security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region," Spicer said in a statement.

The two leaders "will look to outline a common vision for the United States-India partnership that is worthy of their 1.6 billion citizens," he added.

He said they are expected to set forth a vision that will expand the bilateral partnership "in an ambitious and worthy way of both countries' people."

The External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi said on Monday that their meeting would provide a new direction for a deeper bilateral engagement "on issues of mutual interest and consolidation of multi-dimensional strategic partnership."

Modi's US visit would begin on June 25, it said.

Modi`s visit will come while Trump is under political stress because of alleged Russian interference in US elections last year and contacts by member of his inner circle with Kremlin-connected figures.

A special prosecutor is looking into the allegations and a Senate committee has been holding hearings.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in her annual press meet last week, however, said Modi would also raise the issues surrounding the US' plans to reduce the number of H-1B visa slots that are mainly used by Indian IT workers.

Almost 1.8 million H-1B visas have been distributed in fiscal years 2001 through 2015, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data. From fiscal years 2001 to 2015, workers from India received the largest share (50.5 per cent) of all H-1B visas for first-time employment.

Despite the recent hiccups over the issue, US-India trade has grown six-fold since 2000, from USD 19 billion to USD 115 billion in 2016, according to the White House. "US energy and technologies, including natural gas, are helping to build Prime Minister Modi's vision for a new India and creating thousands of US jobs in the process," Spicer said.

Apart from ways to enhance trade and business cooperation, Modi and Trump are expected to discuss defence ties.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis has already made it clear that his country recognises India as a major defence "partner partly out of respect" for New Delhi's "indispensable role" in maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean region.

The US was exploring "new ways" to address new challenges as well from maritime security to the growing threat posed by the spread of terrorism in Southeast Asia, Mattis has said.

Regional security situation including Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and other international issues are expected to figure prominently during the meeting of the two leaders.

Modi's visit also comes in the backdrop of Trump's announcement to withdraw the US from the historic Paris Climate Agreement signed by over 190 other countries.

Trump had blamed India and China for the US withdrawal.

"India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions of dollars from developed countries," he had said.

Strongly rejecting Trump's contention, India said it signed the Paris deal not under duress or for lure of money but due to its commitment to protect the environment.

During his visit to France this month, Modi even said that India would "go above and beyond" the Paris deal to protect climate for the future generations.

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