India and U.S. discuss Indo-Pacific, threats to rules-based international order, trade and vaccines

Hours after the U.S. issued a rule that did not exempt foreign students from enrolling in just online classes in the autumn, placing many Indian students at risk of falling out of valid immigration status, Indian and U.S. officials held their scheduled virtual Foreign Office Consultations. In addition to discussing the Indo-Pacific, the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines, the student visa issue was discussed as per a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) readout, but the U.S State Department’s readout made no mention of it.

The two countries had “discussed ways to further enhance mutually beneficial trade and people-to-people ties, including through visa facilitation for students and professionals,” the MEA statement said.

A source told The Hindu that the American officials are “still awaiting implementation guidelines from DHS, and that they will keep the best interests of the students in mind”.

The teams, led by Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla and U.S. Under Secretary of State David Hale, “reviewed the entire gamut of engagements under the India-U.S. Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, including political, economic, commercial, regional and international cooperation,” as per the MEA statement. “India-U.S. Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership” was a name announced during U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to India in February.

On Tuesday, the two sides also discussed strengthening health partnership. Both countries’ statements made reference to pharmaceuticals and vaccine development.

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