President Obama’s Visit to India: IT Issues on Agenda?

As the weather turns cold in Washington, and the political climate turns positively icy on Capitol Hill, President Obama will no doubt be relieved to be in sunnier climes, when he arrives in India later this week. The President’s discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are certain to address weighty considerations of international security and strategic cooperation, as well as the many economic issues that concern both parties.

According to The Economic Times, a major Indian newspaper, the Indian IT industry will press its case for relaxation of U.S. government policies on outsourcing and immigration. (See Indian IT Industry to Raise Outsourcing Issue with Obama, The Economic Times, 26.Oct.2010.) Infosys Technologies chief executive S. Gopalakrishnan told The Economic Times, “We are waiting for confirmation of our meeting with Obama. As an industry association (Nasscom), we will put forward our views across to Obama on outsourcing of IT services and the recent hike in U.S. visa fee for our software professionals.”

As The Economic Times reports, Mr. Gopalakrishnan stressed that America’s unemployment problems were not caused by outsourcing, but by declines in other economic sectors, such as construction, retail, and manufacturing. Nonetheless, outsourcing and so-called “offshoring” by American companies has been a controversial political issue in the United States, almost as much as immigration has been.

President Obama will have his work cut out for him, seeking to promote stronger bilateral ties in trade and investment, but without promising things that might get him in trouble at home, particularly as he begins to look ahead to the 2012 reelection campaign. In other words, don’t expect the President to offer reduced fees for H1B and L-1 visa applicants, just to keep a major trade partner happy. It will be enough of a challenge for him to get a reasonable and balanced immigration bill through Congress, either in a lame duck session (unlikely) or when the new Congress is sworn in next January (perhaps unlikelier still). In either case, it is unlikely the President will be able to offer much comfort to the Indian IT industry – not to mention the many American businesses that depend on Indian and other foreign-born IT engineers. Stay tuned.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.