US Visas Pose 'Appallingly Pervasive Problem'

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Jun 25 (IANS): A day after India raised the issue of visas for Indian professionals and skilled workers, a senior US official acknowledged that visas posed an "appallingly pervasive problem" in science and technology cooperation.

"Visas have been an appallingly pervasive problem in science and technology cooperation," said Dr John P Holdren, advisor to the US president on science and technology, Thursday.

"We need to streamline visa procedures and we have made considerable achievements already in the Obama administration," Holdren said at the inauguration of first US-India Joint Commission on Science and Technology Cooperation.

Indian Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan, who is leading the Indian team, said the coming together of the US and India, one a very large economy and the other poised to become one, would have great bearing on the future.

"The commitment of our two leaders in building knowledge society, without a doubt, is at a level never seen before," he said. "For the relationship to be meaningful, it has to be a mutually beneficial arrangement, with a win win situation."

The present day challenges of water, food security, food, climate change or threat to national security can only be addressed through science and technology and through cooperation between willing partners, Chavan said.

Science and technology plays a key role in addressing the challenges being faced by both India and the US, Holdren said noting the two countries have already accomplished a lot through their cooperation in the field of science and technology.

Holdren's acknowledgement of the problems with the US visa regime came a day after Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma raised the issue in a meeting with the US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.

Highlighting India's concerns, he emphasised the need for an active dialogue with the end objective of launching negotiations on a Totalisation Agreement. He pointed out that due to the absence of such an agreement, Indian companies in the US were making double payments of social security, without getting any benefits.

Sharma also highlighted India's concerns on the US export control regime as applicable to India and sought their early removal prior to President Barack Obama's visit to India in November.

He also sought US support for India's membership of multilateral export control regimes and emphasised the need for pruning of the US entity list to remove Indian government entities.



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