India, US discuss visa issues

NEW YORK- External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has conveyed India’s concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the US visa fee hike and discussed a host of regional and global issues, including ways of advancing bilateral cooperation over Afghanistan.

Krishna held a 45-minute meeting with Clinton on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session.

Krishna and Clinton “held a positive discussion on a broad range of bilateral and regional issues”, a State Department official said.

During the discussions, Clinton thanked India for its prompt condemnation of the attack on its Benghazi consulate that killed the US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, said official sources in India’s Foreign Office.

Krishna thanked the US government for swift response in the wake of attack on a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin, US.

Issues relating to the hike in the US visa fee, which has hurt the Indian IT industry, figured prominently in the talks. The US raised visa fee in 2010 to finance its enhanced costs of securing its border with Mexico under the Border Security Act.

This was Krishna’s third meeting with Clinton this year. The two had previously met in New Delhi in April and in June in Washington.

Against the backdrop of the phased withdrawal of international combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014, Krishna and Clinton also discussed prospects of closer collaboration between India and the US to stabilise the violence-torn country and for joint development projects in that country.

India, the US and Afghanistan held a trilateral dialogue on the Afghan situation on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York last week.

The two reviewed last week’s trilateral dialogue and discussed regional economic integration projects including the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, he said.

Krishna raised the possibility of the US permitting the export of shale gas in liquefied form to India and was told that Washington would keep India’s energy needs in mind as they decide on some domestic issues relating to export of shale gas, sources said.

Krishna and Clinton also discussed their joint efforts on energy, civil nuclear cooperation, visas, trade and bilateral investment, and expanding cooperation with India’s neighbours and near-neighbours, the State Department official said.

Clinton welcomed the steps India and Pakistan have recently taken to develop closer trade and commercial ties, he said.

India updated the US on steps taken by New Delhi to normalise trade relations with Islamabad and the dialogue process with Pakistan.

Besides Afghanistan, regional issues that came up during the discussions included regional cooperation in South Asia and support for India’s Look East policy, said the sources.