Sunday Masala 8/17/14: This Week in US-India Relations
usindiamonitor is excited to launch a brand new feature called “Sunday Masala,”a weekly digest of the most important developments taking place now in the US-India bilateral relationship. Besides quick and unbiased analysis of each issue, Sunday Masala will also present a section called “Trend Spotting” if warranted, to inform readers of critical short or long term trajectories to watch out for in this sphere.
Sunday Masala is a unique resource, and the only one you will need to stay well-informed of the fast moving, always interesting action in US-India relations. We added a traffic light image to show if developments are positive (green), negative (red), or yellow (unknown) for the relationship. So, what happened this last week?
1) Indian-Americans prepare for- and fight over- Narendra Modi. Prime Minister Modi will be in the United States for his first visit as head of state next month. Besides Washington, he will also be in New York City, and on his schedule besides the UN General Assembly is a pep rally of up to 20,000 people to be hosted by the Indo-American community at Madison Square Garden on September 28th. Indian prime ministers usually conduct meetings with the Indian diaspora when they travel abroad, but the Madison Square event, if it gets pulled off, could be the largest such event by far. The New York/ New Jersey area’s diaspora members are leading the effort.
There are hopes for substantive progress from Modi meeting with Indian-American community leaders, such as creating a new think tank focused on US-India relations, launching a pro-alliance lobby group, and arranging a delegation of US officials to India. Many are keen to see if he lives up to his rock-star billing in America as he has already done at massive rallies in India.
In typical fashion, the embarrassingly fragmented and tribal Indian-American community is also fighting over control of the event.
2) Modi will not address a joint session of US Congress. Related to Modi’s visit, it is often considered an honor for foreign leaders to be invited to the United States Congress to speak to both members of the House and Senate. However, this year it is not to be, due to scheduling conflicts on the American side. Specifically, many Congresspeople will be in the thick of campaigning for the November elections in late September when Modi is in Washington. Boehner has invited Modi to do so at a future date and said it was not a snub. In reality it is not, but will it be perceived that way? This may also give Modi more time to speak with President Obama and his people within the US executive branch.
3) Will a US immigration bill cause India to lose $30 billion per year? An immigration bill with a clause aimed at curbing outsourcing has made the rounds in Congress. S744 is a bill about immigration reform, mainly focused on Hispanics receiving citizenship and legitimacy. The Indian American Advisory Council of the House Republican Conference (IAAC) claims it will cost the Indian GDP $30 billion per year. The story has gotten a lot of play this week, especially in the Indian media. According to India West:
The bill bans placement of H-1B or L-1 visa holders at client firms if they form more than 15% of the firm’s American workforce. It also limits to 50% the proportion of H-1B and L-1 visa workers relative to a firm’s total employees in the U.S. by the financial year 2017 ,starting October 2016.
The law sounds truly frightening. However in reality, there is nothing for India to worry about at the moment because no bill of any substance is being passed by the do-nothing U.S. Congress for the foreseeable future. For now, this gets a yellow traffic light.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor