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H-1B: Indian CEOs meet Obama team

March 19, 2009 14:12 IST

India's corporate leadership raised the issue of H-1B visa restrictions during their first high level interaction with Obama Administration officials and was assured that there would not be a serious setback to the programme unless unemployment rate in US plummets drastically.

The issue was raised by the visiting CII's CEO Mission led by Bharati enterprise chairman Sunil Bharati Mittal, who among others met Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, at the White House on Wednesday.

During the meeting, the delegation comprising top Indian CEOs brought to the notice the concerns about the recent developments in the US with regard to H-1B work visa programme and certain provisions in the stimulus bill.

"I do not see that there would be serious setback to H-1B visa programme or export programme, unless the unemployment rate goes down further in a severe manner," Mittal, chairman and group CEO of Bharati Enterprise, told PTI in an interview after the meeting.

"They were positive," Bharati said referring to the response from the Obama Administration officials with regard to these issues raised by the CII delegation. "They believed that US will still remain open," he said.

During the meeting the officials shared the pressure the administration is facing from the US Congress on the issue of unemployment in the country.

"I think, we must also be conscious that that pressure is legitimate when they have the all kinds of difficulties here.

They would have to take care of their own people and employment," Mittal said.

"But they also recognise that the companies like IBM and many others are establishing large bases in India, getting large businesses there. Boeing is getting businesses, others are getting businesses, so it is a two way process," he said.

During the meeting, the CII delegation also raised the issues in the pharmaceuticals sector where US transit points for South American market have recently run into problems as Indian medicines have been impounded.

Among other prominent members of the CII's CEO Mission are C K Birla, chairman of Hindustan Motors Ltd; Tarun Das, CII mentor and chairman Haldia Petrochemicals; Pawan Munjal, CEO and managing director of Hero Honda Motors; Sunil Kumar Munjal, chairman of Hero Corporate Services; Kamineni Shabana, chairman Apollo Group of Hospitals; Vijay Thadani and CEO, NIIT Ltd.

Prominent among those the CII CEO's delegation met was Jim Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the state department and Michael Froman, deputy assistant to the US President Barack Obama.

The delegation attended a luncheon meeting with US corporate leadership and also held a meeting with the former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, and the former assistant secretary of state, Karl Inderfurth.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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