Two days after a US government report showed that there had been a 50 per cent decline in the enrollment of Indian students at American universities, the country’s Consul General in Mumbai said the numbers did not look bad. On Monday, the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs released the 2017 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange. The report stated that there had been a 25 per cent rise in Indian students enrolling at American universities for further studies in 2015-16. However, in 2016-17, the growth rate dipped to 12.3 per cent.
“The data also shows that Indians are still going to the US for studies. There was a 35 per cent rise in the number of students doing their Optional Practical Training. The number has been growing for the past three years. That’s a good sign,” said Edgard Kagan, the US Consul General in Mumbai. He added that it was not possible for the growth to remain consistent at 25 per cent each year. “A 12.3 per cent growth in fresh applicants is a good number even though it is lower than the 25 per cent growth in the previous year. The numbers should increase,” he said.
Even as the current uncertainty over the H1-B visa programme has made Indians employed in IT companies anxious, Kagan said the future looked positive, and that the US government wanted the number of fresh applicants to go up.
In an interaction at The Indian Express office Wednesday, Kagan, who took charge in August, also talked about the need for India and the US to engage in state-to-state diplomatic relationship in addition to that existing between central governments.
In the last three months, governors of the American states of Mississippi, Indiana and Colorado have visited India as part of trade delegations in a bid to attract Indian investment to their states. “I wouldn’t have predicted those states to come here. We want to see more of that. Government-to-government traditional diplomacy is good, but we want to see it more on a state-to-state level. We want to encourage more chief ministers of Indian states to visit America. Chief ministers have a very important say in investment decisions,” he said.
Kagan, who had served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for three years before his posting in Mumbai, heaped praise on the bonhomie between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump. The two leaders held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Philippines Tuesday. The leaders spoke of the need of the countries to work together “for the interest of Asia”, and of an enhanced partnership in the defence sector “as the world greatest democracies should also have the world’s greatest military”. “The communique coming out of the summit isn’t even surprising anymore. Five, 10 or even 15 years ago, it would have blown us away. But that it is how strong the relations are today,” he said.