India's Modi invited to address joint meeting of US Congress

President Joe Biden meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept. 24, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

US congressional leaders have invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint meeting of the House of Representatives and Senate on June 22, one of the highest honours Washington affords to foreign dignitaries.

"During your address, you will have the opportunity to share your vision for India's future and speak to the global challenges our countries both face," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a letter to Modi on Friday.

The speech would be Modi's second to a joint meeting of the US legislature, a rare honour for a leader once denied a visa to enter the United States for his failure to halt Hindu riots in 2002 that killed more than 1,000 Muslims in western India's Gujarat state.

President Joe Biden is eager to deepen ties with PM Modi in his bid to win what he has framed as a contest between free and autocratic societies, especially China.

The White House announced last month that Modi was invited for an official state visit, despite advocacy groups' concerns over what they see as a deteriorating human rights situation under his Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP].

The State Department's annual report on human rights practices released in March listed "significant human rights issues" and abuses in India.

New Delhi has frustrated Washington by participating in military exercises with Russia and increasing purchases of the country's crude oil, a source of funding for the war in Ukraine.

Washington has been pushing New Delhi to do more to punish Russia for the Ukraine invasion.

Addresses to joint meetings of Congress are generally reserved for the closest US allies or major world figures.

The last was by South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in April.

Several Indian leaders have made such addresses. Modi last did so in 2016. The first was prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1949.

Abuse against minorities

Modi's visit seven years ago came after the politician was shunned for years because of religious violence in his home state while he was chief minister.

Since ascending to become prime minister of India in 2014, his Hindu right-wing party has stifled dissent, cracked down on press criticism and introduced divisive policies that discriminate against Muslims and other minorities.

India routinely denies criticism of its human rights and civil liberties record.

Modi's relationship with Washington has evolved since 2005, when the administration of then-president George W Bush denied him a visa under a US law barring entry to foreigners who have committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom."

In their letter, McCarthy, Schumer, McConnell and Jeffries said the address would celebrate the enduring friendship between the United States and India.


Source: TRT