- a) Visa dispute
- In March 2016, India dragged the US to WTO’s dispute settlement body against the latter’s measures imposing increased fees on certain applicants for L-1 and H-1B visa categories.
- India has stated that the move would impact Indian IT professionals.
- India has alleged that the US is violating its obligations under General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) as well as the GATS Annex on Movement of Natural Persons Supplying Services, to not discriminate against or between non-US service providers.
Congressional Research Service (CRS) report
- A Congressional report has warned American lawmakers that if visa dispute between India and US moves to formal settlement phase, it could possibly result in WTO-authorised trade retaliation against the U.S.
- Report said India contends, among other things, that the 2010 and 2015 fee increases do not comply with “most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment” under the GATS.
- In its analysis, CRS noted that the petition fees increases mandated by the 2010 and 2015 acts are “arguably protectionist” because they “may exceed” the government’s cost in processing a visa applicant.
- It also could be a punitive measure targeting certain employers perceived by some Members of Congress as abusers of the foreign worker visas.
- b) Defence cooperation
- The U.S Congress is planning to pass the National Defence Authorisation Act 2017 The draft in this regard was recently released.
- NDAA seeks executive action to “recognise India’s status as a major defence partner of the United States.”
- The U.S has already recognised India as a “major defence partner” in June, during Prime Minister Modi’s visit, but the implications of it remains undefined.
NDAA 2017 on India-US defence ties
- It mandates to “designate an individual within the executive branch who has experience in defense acquisition and technology” to ensure the success of bilateral defence ties and “to help resolve remaining issues impeding” them.
- It also calls for “strengthening the effectiveness of the U.S.-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative and the durability of the Department of Defence’s “India Rapid Reaction Cell,” a special unit that reviews ties with India.
- “Major Defence Partner” is based on the concept of the US treating India as its closest ally and partner for the purpose of technology transfer.
- Both sides reviewed the progress in defence ties in recent years, and welcomed the progress achieved under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) intended to promote opportunities for co-production and co-development of weapon systems and platforms.
- In the past two years, some major agreements were signed:
- a) The Defence Framework Agreement in 2015, which laid a blueprint for collaboration between the defence establishments
- b) The logistics support agreement Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).
1.2 HEART OF ASIA (HOA) CONFERENCE
Why in News?
- Recently, India hosted the 6th Ministerial Conference of Heart of Asia (HoA) in Amritsar.
Amritsar Declaration: Key Highlights
- It called for immediate elimination of terrorism to help the war-ravaged country in its political and economic transition.
- State-sponsored terrorism was identified as a key challenge and members agreed upon a concerted effort to dismantle all kinds of terrorism.
- Members reiterated their belief in principles of sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, sovereign equality of nations as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
- Members expressed their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Right.
- Members called up for leveraging the cultural heritage of the region to drive economic and social development.
- Members consented on eliminating non-tariff barriers to trade.
- Members concerned about the increase in production and cultivation of opium in Afghanistan, the volume of drug trafficking and demand in the HoA Region and beyond.