‘America First’ could turn into ‘India First’

America is great because of its willingness to accept talented immigrants.

That’s what Nandan Nilekani, the billionaire co-founder of Infosys Technologies, would say to President Trump if he had the opportunity.

“If you really want to keep the United States … globally competitive, you have to be open to foreign talent,” said Nilekani on the sidelines of CNN’s Asia Business Forum in Bangalore.

Infosys((INFY) is the second-largest outsourcing company in India and a major recipient of US H-1B visas. The documents allow the tech company to employ large numbers of Indians in jobs in the United States.

The Trump administration is now considering major changes to the visa program. Press secretary Sean Spicer said in January that Trump would continue to talk about reforming the H-1B program, among other things, as part of a broader campaign for immigration reform.

What is an H-1B visa?

 

Visa restrictions could hit Indian workers harder.

India is the main source of highly skilled labor for the American technology industry. According to US government data, 70% of extremely popular H-1B visas go to Indians.

The actions of several Indian technology companies – including Infosys – plunged spectacularly two weeks ago amid reports of an imminent repression of working visas.

Nilekani said it would be a mistake for the administration to act on.

“Indian companies have done a lot to help American companies become more competitive, and I think it should continue,” said Nilekani. “If you look at Silicon Valley … most companies have an immigrant founder.”

India’s contribution to industry – particularly at the highest levels – has been oversized. The current CEOs of Google ((GOOG) and Microsoft ((MSFT), for example, were both born in India.

But Nilekani, who is also the architect of India’s ambitious biometric identification program, suggested that India would ultimately benefit from any new restrictions put in place under the “America First” plan. from Trump. If talented engineers cannot go to the United States, they will stay in India.

“The visa issue has always been raised in the United States every few years, especially during the election season,” he said. “It actually accelerated the development work [in India], because … people are investing more to get the job done here. ”

Nilekani cited as an example his own projects for the Indian government.

The Bangalore-born entrepreneur left Infosys in 2009 to manage India’s vast social security program, known as Aadhaar. Thanks to this initiative, the vast majority of the 1.3 billion Indian citizens now have a biometric identification number which allows them to receive government services, carry out bank transactions and even make biometric payments.

“It was built by extremely talented and committed Indians,” said Nilekani. “Many of them had global experience, but they brought this talent and experience to solve the problems of India.”

Nilekani said that the country’s massive youth population is increasingly choosing to stay at home and participate in it.

“It’s India first,” he said.

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