The White House wants to comprehensively overhaul US immigration rules even as the UK and India are negotiating a Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement for a more seamless flow of talent between India and Britain. Countries that have the smartest immigration policies stand to benefit most in the emerging world order and will ensure they are best equipped to challenge the rise of China, writes India Inc. Founder and CEO Manoj Ladwa.
The US President wants the US Congress to quickly fix America’s “broken immigration system”. His administration has already sent a Bill in this regard to the Congress. This will disproportionately affect aspiring young Indians, mostly in the technology sector, who are seeking opportunities overseas, and who no longer confine their dreams of landing a plumb job in the US.
This comes close on the heels of India and the UK agreeing to fast-track negotiations on both a trade deal and a comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement during British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s talks with Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in New Delhi last December.
India the global hub of youth
India has the world’s youngest population; it will be the most populous nation within the next few decades; and 65 per cent of its people will be in the working age group by 2036, according to the Government of India’s “Population and Projection for India and States 2011-2036”, cited by India’s Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan recently.
This young India is highly aspirational and tech-savvy and sees the world as its oyster. The rise of the Internet has played a very big role in this transformation of a country that was considered backward barely three decades ago. Countries that have the highest levels of digital literacy will be the ones that ride the crest of the, so called, ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ that is unfolding before our eyes. And I have absolutely no doubt at all that India and Indians will be at the vanguard of this revolution.
An economy driven by aspirations and ambitions, not by state diktat
In such a global and interconnected economy, a rising India will not only be looking for a market for its products but also opportunities for its talent. And mind you, unlike China, this is not an economy is driven not by state diktats, but by the aspirations and ambitions of its businesses and its young people.
Of course, even as India rises, countries and blocs like the US, the UK, EU and Japan will remain economic powerhouses, but their populations are ageing. They will need young bodies and agile minds to retain their current leadership positions.
Immigration will play a big role in future global leadership
This is where immigration will play a big role. Countries that have the most conducive immigration policies stand to benefit most in the emerging world order.
Look at the Middle East. It was built, in large measure, first by Indian labour and then by Indian professionals. In this context, let me recall Biden’s comment that Indian-Americans are taking over the US.
Biden pointedly highlighted how these immigrants from India were adding value to America – as many as 55 members of his administration are Indian Americans. NASA, Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the American health system are packed with people of Indian origin.
Indians have contributed immensely to the global leadership of the US, the UK
Like Dr Swati Mohan, who played a pivotal role in landing the Perseverance on Mars, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, and Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, these are people who contribute immensely to keeping the US ahead of the technology curve and contribute in no small measure to staving off challenges to its global leadership.
The story is no different in the UK and, to a slightly lesser extent, across the EU as well. With the UK now moving on from Brexit, it is imperative for it to attract the best talent to its shores, if only to maintain its position as one of the premier global centres for technology and finance.
Biden, BoJo going in the right direction
I am glad that both the Biden administration as well as the Boris Johnson government have shown an inclination towards streamlining their immigration systems, especially with relation to India. But they need to move faster, and ensure that democracies like India enjoy positively differential treatment to dictatorships like China. This is what a true values based immigration policy must look like.
And as I have said several times in the past, a job to an Indian is not a job lost to a US or UK citizen. Indian tech giants such as TCS, Infosys, Wipro, and HCL continue to prove this day in day out.
Market for Indian talent will open up even in the non-English speaking world
But there are still politicians across the world, including in the US and the UK, that still views high talent immigration with suspicion. As both these countries seek trade deals with India, some give and take will have to take place on immigration – and they will have to decide if they want to travel down the protectionist road.
Such a direction will be self-defeating. No country can rest on their laurels. As the demand for talent becomes truly global in the age of this Fourth Industrial Revolution, the market for Indian talent will open up further even in the non-English speaking world. Let’s not kid ourselves otherwise.
Framing smart immigration rules should be the way forward
And as India becomes more adept at negotiating multilateral trade deals, I am certain the movement of its talent across borders will figure more prominently and pointedly in them. Framing smart rules and regulations on the global flow of talent now will make it easier for the countries like US and UK to retain global leadership against a rising China.