Tuesday July 16, 2019
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Indo-US bilateral relations: Future of 300,000 Indians at stake

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

One of the few, and serious economic grievances that New Delhi has raised with Washington is the lack of a totalisation agreement on the social security and Medicare taxes contributed by Indian workers to the American coffers.

30-1422584463-india-us-flagsIndia has now decided to up the ante on the issue by pressing the US government to sign the agreement. More than 505 signatures have already been signed on an online petition addressed to the External affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, asking her to strongly take up the issue with the US government.

Currently, non-immigrants and other 300,00 Indians on H1-B visa have to shell out a tonne of money if they are in the US for less than 10 years or 40 quarters. A whopping sum of $25 billion has already been wiped out in the past years owing to the US law.

“Signing the treaty should be on top of the agenda in the US-India Strategic Partnership,” says the petition.

The urgency to take up the issue with US stems from the fact that for the past decade India has been demanding a totalisation agreement, but its call has fallen on deaf ears primarily because the US does not want to lose free money.

The moral argument that India has raised does not raise much hackles in the hard-nosed American politics. No war has ever been won purely on moral grounds. Even the apartheid cookie crumbled due to economic reasons when the South African government was squeezed through divestments via boycott of goods and civil right activism.

Another pressing concern which irked India during the mid-2000s was the exclusion from the club of nuclear countries. But the global scenario prevalent during the time forced George Bush to provide with nuclear superstructure in 2005, a realpolitik gambit aimed at recognising India as its strategic partner, not to mention countering fears of an emerging China.

Things, as they stand today, are different. America no longer has the same compulsions as before. Chinese economy is going through a slowdown and US remains the only bright spot in the world economy.

Therefore, India needs to go back to the drawing room and hatch another plan, a tighter case backed with hard legal arguments. A glimmer of hope had arisen when President Barack Obama in January agreed to pursue an India-US Totalisation agreement.

Still, prospects for signing the deal remain bleak. US has time and again cited technical issues and ‘incompatibility’ of the systems followed by the two countries as the reason for sticking persistently to its stance of non-commitment.

However, here is where the American argument becomes flawed. India has signed at least 9 agreements where the workers are allowed pay into his/her social security if they are employed for less than 5 years. (The Indo-Canada pact is a case in point)

Maybe America needs to come up with a flexible, custom-made treaty such as the one determining wages on the basis of a combination of duration of work and the origins of the employer.

But American commitment to etch a bilateral pact remains questionable.

Next Story

India Aborts Launch of Spacecraft Intended to Land on Far Side of Moon

The Chandrayaan-2 mission was called off when a “technical snag” was observed in the 640-ton, 14-story rocket launcher

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India, Spacecraft, Moon
A spectator holds an Indian flag after a mission of Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-2, with the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle on board was called back because of a technical snag in Sriharikota, India, July 15, 2019. VOA

India aborted the launch Monday of a spacecraft intended to land on the far side of the moon less than an hour before liftoff.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission was called off when a “technical snag” was observed in the 640-ton, 14-story rocket launcher, Indian Space Research Organization spokesman B.R. Guruprasad said.

The countdown abruptly stopped at T-56 minutes, 24 seconds, and Guruprasad said that the agency would announce a revised launch date soon.

Chandrayaan, the word for “moon craft” in Sanskrit, is designed for a soft landing on the lunar south pole and to send a rover to explore water deposits confirmed by a previous Indian space mission.

India, Spacecraft, Moon
FILE – Indian space scientist and Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization Kailasavadivoo Sivan speaks during a press conference at the ISRO headquarters Antariksh Bhavan, in Bangalore, June 12, 2019. VOA

With nuclear-armed India poised to become the world’s fifth-largest economy, the ardently nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is eager to show off the country’s prowess in security and technology. If India did manage the soft landing, it would be only the fourth to do so after the U.S., Russia and China.

Dr. K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, said at a news conference last week that the estimated $140 million Chandrayaan-2 mission was the nation’s “most prestigious” to date, in part because of the technical complexities of soft landing on the lunar surface, an event he described as “15 terrifying minutes.”

After countdown commenced Sunday, Sivan visited two Hindu shrines to pray for the mission’s success.

Criticized program pays off

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Practically since its inception in 1962, India’s space program has been criticized as inappropriate for an overpopulated, developing nation.

But decades of space research have allowed India to develop satellite communications and remote sensing technologies that are helping solve everyday problems at home, from forecasting fish migration to predicting storms and floods.

With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission this month, the world’s biggest space agencies are returning their gaze to the moon, seen as ideal testing grounds for technologies required for deep space exploration, and, with the confirmed discovery of water, as a possible pit stop along the way.

“The moon is sort of our backyard for training to go to Mars,” said Adam Steltzner, NASA’s chief engineer responsible for its 2020 mission to Mars.

India, Spacecraft, Moon
India aborted the launch Monday of a spacecraft intended to land on the far side of the moon less than an hour before liftoff. Pixabay

Seeking water on the moon

Because of repeated delays, India missed the chance to achieve the first soft landing near the lunar south pole. China’s Chang’e 4 mission landed a lander and rover there last January.

India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission orbited the moon in 2008 and helped confirm the presence of water. The Indian Space Research Organization wants its new mission’s rover to further probe the far side of the moon, where scientists believe a basin contains water-ice that could help humans do more than plant flags on future manned missions.

The U.S. is working to send a manned spacecraft to the moon’s south pole by 2024.

Also Read- Around 53% People Interested in Travelling to Space: Survey

Modi has set a deadline of 2022 for India’s first manned spaceflight. (VOA)