US lawmakers want Modi to address joint session of Congress

Washington: The bipartisan leadership of an India-focused group of US lawmakers of the House of Representatives have called for extending an invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint session of Congress during his upcoming state visit in June at the invitation of President Joe Biden.

“On June 22, 2023, President Biden is hosting Prime Minister Modi for an Official State Visit and a State Dinner. As State Dinners have come to signify the President’s utmost respect for visiting heads of state, granting a joint address to Congress is a commensurate honour for the leader of the world’s largest democracy and perhaps the most critical partner to countering China in the 21st century,” Representatives Ro Khanna, a Democrat, and James Waltz, a Republican, wrote in a joint letter on Tuesday to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

“We firmly believe that inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deliver a joint address to Congress would further strengthen the deep and enduring friendship between the US and India,” they added in the letter.

There were no indications if Speaker McCarthy, a Republican, will agree. If he does and Modi accepts the invitation, the latter will become the first Indian Prime Minister to address a joint session of US Congress twice. The first was in June 2016, in which he sought to project a new energy for the bilateral relationship with the two sides overcoming “the hesitations of history”.

Biden has invited Modi for a state visit in June, the two sides announced earlier this month, with a state dinner at the White House as well.

The last Indian Prime Minister who was given a state dinner was Manmohan Singh; he was hosted by President Barack Obama. Singh was also the first foreign leader given a state dinner in Obama’s presidency.

A state dinner is a rare gesture and signals a special relationship, which India and the US have to come to share over the last decade or so, going back several administrations and governments on both sides.

Khanna and Waltz, who are co-chairs of the India Caucus in the House of Representatives, invoke this special relationship to request the US Speaker to invite Modi.

“The foundation of our partnership lies in our shared commitment to democracy and the upholding of a rules-based international system,” they write in the letter, adding, “With mutual interests in promoting global security, stability and economic prosperity through trade, investment, and connectivity, the US and India have forged a deep bond. The recent in-person bilateral meetings between President Biden and Prime Minister Modi have reaffirmed our dedication to a resilient international order that safeguards sovereignty, upholds democratic values, and promotes peace and prosperity for all.”


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