Washington has made it a priority to reduce visa backlog in India: US Consul General | India News – Times of India

BHOPAL: US Consul General Mike Hankey is upbeat about the prospects of US business ties with India, especially in security, education and health, building on the shared strength of both democracies.
The aim is to advance bilateral prosperity, support both societies, and improve security, he said during an interaction with journalists in Bhopal on Tuesday.
“The resilience of both countries is important. US President Joe Biden has said that the India-US partnership is indispensable in the coming century,” Hankey said. “In the Indo-Pacific region, we see opportunities to build on our shared democratic values… It’s very important that we each be ready to take on global challenges,” he said

Chipping in

India has a big opportunity to be an alternative supplier of microchips and solar panels, he pointed out. “Worldwide, the US is working to diversify the manufacturing base of chips and is putting research money into this. We have started a working group with India to advance and collaborate to build new supplies of chips that provide the world with more options,” he said.
The US Development Finance Corporation has its largest portfolio in the world in India — $3 billion, he said, adding that the US government is putting in investment to grow business in renewable energy, pharma, agriculture and food processing. A US firm, ‘First Solar’, is opening a plant in India. “We are putting $500 million into that firm to produce solar panels. We want to see new production sources for solar panels,” he said.

Clearing visa backlog a priority

On visas, he said that the wait time for first-time travelers for tourism is “past next year”, but humanitarian cases are being pushed to the front of the line. “We always focus on humanitarian cases. People seeking to go to the US for medical treatment get priority,” he said, adding that education and business visas are also given preference.
“Last year, 82,000 student visas were given. That set a few records — it was the most visas ever issued for students. India is the No. 1 student visa recipient in the world. This will only grow,” he said.
Washington has made it a priority to reduce visa backlog in India, he said. “Extra resources have been brought in for this. Our staffing in Mumbai is above pre-pandemic levels. We have brought in surge capacity staff from Washington and also roped in other US embassies in the region with less visa demand. We send them the applications for processing and print them here.

Boost to India’s defence capabilities

On his “wonderful experience” at the Defence Expo held in Gujarat a fortnight ago, the Consul General said: “Our goal at the Defence Expo was to underscore our support for US companies working with Indian partners to co-develop and co-produce material that allow India to boost its defence capabilities, both for its own use and to be a net positive supplier of security to similarly minded countries. India already plays such a vital role from a policy perspective on security, we’d like to see American and Indian firms work closely together to build new systems to meet regional challenges.”
“It was wonderful to go around the Def Expo and see examples of leading US technology being put into some of the top military hardware systems in the world. That includes the tail fin of the F16, the first one built in India, that can be bolted on to fighter jets, American software in Indian-produced drones, and I saw opportunities for US firms,” the Consul General said.
“Overall, when we look at India-US relationship, you are seeing a moment of growth in our cooperation, not only in co-development and co-production, but also in joint training,” he added.

MP a land of opportunity

During his visit to Bhopal, Hankey met chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, leader of opposition Dr Govind Singh, business leaders and people from a wide spectrum of society.
He sees opportunities for the US in renewable energy, e-vehicles and solar units. “Madhya Pradesh has a great location — in the middle of the country. It has skilled resources, and factories employing a majority of women, showing that men and women are well engaged in industrial space,” Hankey said, adding that he was impressed by how industries are working to improve women’s roles in industry and education.
“We have some of our leading companies doing groundbreaking work in MP,” he said, adding that he sees opportunities in clean energy, education, farm production and food processing. “Your state leadership is telling me that those are their priorities.

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