Invite Modi to deliver joint address to U.S. Congress: lawmakers

Two Republican Congressmen urgr House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner

June 21, 2014 11:32 pm | Updated October 18, 2016 02:38 pm IST - Washington:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File photo

More than three months ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting the U.S. the enthusiasm seems to be brimming over here, this week in the form of two Republican Congressmen urging House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to invite Mr. Modi to deliver a joint address to both houses of Congress when he arrives in Washington.

In the letter Ed Royce of California and George Holding of North Carolina asked that Mr. Modi “be granted the honour of addressing a Joint Meeting of Congress,” given that his visit to Washington would be “a seminal event for the nation’s vibrant Indian American community,” and since the U.S. had “no more important partner in South Asia,” than India.

The Prime Minister is expected to hold a bilateral discussion with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington around the time >that he attends the United Nations General Assembly in New York City in late September.

His visit to the U.S. will mark a long-awaited thaw that comes nine years after the George W. Bush administration slapped Mr. Modi with a visa ban for presiding over Gujarat in 2002, when a deadly anti-Muslim pogrom engulfed the state and authorities were accused of not doing enough to halt the violence.

There appeared to be a lack of clarity on whether an invitation had already been extended to Mr. Modi, particularly after Mr. Royce tweeted “Today I met with #India's ambassador after requesting that @narendramodi speak to Congress,” leading to speculation that he may have issued the invitation during the conversation with Ambassador S. Jaishankar.

However it appears to be clear at this time that no formal invitation to deliver an address on Capitol Hill has been extended to Mr. Modi yet, particularly as the authority do so would rest with Mr. Boehner rather than any individual Congressman, even such a prominent one as Mr. Royce, who is the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Congressmen however praised Mr. Modi’s policies in the economic sphere, saying, “We are optimistic that the mandate given to Prime Minister Modi will help India thrive economically. Under Mr. Modi’s leadership, the state of Gujarat has flourished. Home to a mere five per cent of the country’s population, Gujarat now accounts for nearly 25 per cent of all Indian exports. Poverty rates have fallen dramatically, and infrastructure has grown impressively.”

They also underscored the hope shared by the U.S. corporate sector that stemmed from Mr. Modi’s promise “to focus on private enterprise, reduce bureaucracy, and strengthen trade ties with major partners,” particularly given that despite impressive growth in U.S.-India “Our commercial relationship remains far below the scale of our markets.”

Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress during a 2005 visit to the nation’s capital.

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