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Green cards, North Korean threat and India’s retreat

BY M.R. JOSSE

MRJ 1GAITHERSBURG, MD: American President Donald Trump last Wednesday endorsed a new bill in the Senate aimed at lopping legal immigration levels in half over a decade. This represents a dramatic potential change to policies that have remained in place for more than 50 years.

Trump appeared with Republican Senators Tom Cotton (Ark) and David Perdue (Ga.) at the White House to unveil a modified version of their earlier bill introduced in February to create a “merit based” immigration system that places greater emphasis on job skills of would-be immigrants over their ties to family in the US.

GREEN CARDS

While the proposed legislation is broadly in tune with Trump’s campaign promise of taking a more stringent line on immigration – including the annual distribution of ‘green cards’ awarding permanent legal residence to just over 500,000 from more than 1 million – as per multiple media reports, the aforementioned bill faces dim prospects of adoption in the Senate.

That is because, as a major story in the Washington Post explained, “the Republicans hold a narrow majority and would have difficulty reaching 60 votes to fend off a filibuster.”

American Angle photoThat the bill is expected to face fierce resistance would seem to be foreordained because as Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy, asserts in an op-ed piece in the Post:

“Economists who study immigration overwhelmingly agree that immigration is an economic boon to our country. Indeed, nearly 1,500 Republican, Democratic and independent economists – including six Nobel laureates – recently released a letter stressing the ‘near universal agreement’ among economists of all stripes on ‘the broad economic benefit that immigrants to this country bring.’ ”

Incidentally, a cutting Post editorial on the subject affirms that the Trump-endorsed plan to slash legal immigration would harm the US economy. While admitting that “fresh immigrants do depress wages for some low-skill and minority workers, as Mr. Trump argued”, the editorial categorically concludes that “By cutting their numbers, Mr. Trump could undercut the nation’s prospects.”

Whatever the future holds in this respect, there is little doubt that umpteen thousands of potential immigrants – including those from Nepal – will be following developments on the Green Card front with great interest, if not anxiety.

NORTH KOREAN COMMOTION

North Korea’s recent test-launch of a ballistic missile potentially capable of hitting the East Coast brought forth a fresh crop of press outpourings on how America should deal with this dire existential challenge – not to mention some visibly divergent recommendations by senior policy makers.

One in the former category which caught my attention is arch conservative John Bolton’s blunt write-up, “A chance to get China to act on North Korea” in the Wall Street Journal. Apart from its open advocacy of the military option by the United States, Bolton comes up with this arresting proposal:

“The only durable diplomatic solution is to persuade China that unifying the two Koreas is in its national interest as well as America’s thus ending the nuclear threat by ending the bizarre North Korean regime.”

The other is an op-ed piece in the Post by David Ignatius entitled “A chance to get China to act on North Korea” wherein the columnist offers this suggestion to Beijing: Inviting the United States, Japan, South Korea, and perhaps Russia “to gather in New York during the UN General Assembly meeting for talks about how to handle the North Korean problem.

“The model would be the P5+1 group that sponsored the Iran nuclear talks. China was an observer back then; this time it would be the convener. Xi Jinping’s global status would be enhanced as he heads towards this fall’s big party congress that will shape his future as president.”

Concluding his thoughtful piece, Ignatius has these enticing ideas to throw-up: “Trump has the opportunity for a foreign policy reset in the shadow of the North Korea crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin has overreached and has been rebuffed by congressional sanctions. Kim has overreached with his relentless missile testing. Xi has overreached by offering more than he has delivered on curbing Pyongyang.

“The world is beginning to worry that Trump could go to war. Maybe that’s the moment when China helps to organize one of the ‘win-win’ solutions that Xi is always talking about.”

Coming to the apparent confusion on North Korea in the upper reaches of policy-making in Washington, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in wide-ranging comments in the State Department sought talks with North Korea, saying “we are not your enemy” but need to respond to threats, Vice President Mike Pence, flying back home after a trip to Eastern Europe, rejected direct talks with Pyongyang, reminding that Washington isn’t ruling out military action against North Korea.

Incidentally, CIA director Mike Pompeo last month signaled he wanted the North Korean regime to fall.

Finally, significantly the UN Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to impose stiff new sanction on North Korea – a development that underlined that, essentially, China and the US are on the same page as far as North Korea’s nuclear/missile programme is concerned.

INDIA RETREATS

Though it, of course, remains to be seen what happens next on that strategic front, the singularity of China to the issue, and its centrality to the United States, cannot be wished away – not least of all by India which, until recently, wanted the world to believe that she had the gumption to take on China, even militarily!

More recently, however, geo-political sense seems to have dawned in the corridors of power in New Delhi, where Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, speaking the other day in the Rajya Sabha, indicated that ‘though military redress is always there, war is not a solution’!

One fervently wishes that, as Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba begins to pack his bags for his Indian odyssey, he will not do anything untoward to compromise Nepal’s independence and sovereignty, rooted as they are inextricably to her geo-strategic location between India and China.

mrjosse@gmail.com

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