Washington (PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been invited to address a joint meeting of the US Congress on June 8 during his visit here, Speaker of the US House of Representative Paul Ryan said today.
“The friendship between the United States and India is a pillar of stability in an important region of the world,” Ryan told reporters during his weekly press conference.
“This address presents a special opportunity to hear from the elected leader of the world’s most populous democracy on how our two nations can work together to promote our shared values and to increase prosperity. We look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi to the US Capitol on June 8,” he said.
Modi, who was invited by President Barack Obama for a bilateral visit when he was here for the nuclear summit, will be the fifth prime minister of India to address a joint meeting of Congress, and the first since 2005.
Earlier, Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh (July 19, 2005), Atal Bihari Vajpayee (September 14, 2000), P V Narasimha Rao (May 18, 1994) and Rajiv Gandhi (July 13, 1985) addressed the joint meeting of the US Congress.
The tradition of foreign leaders and dignitaries addressing Congress began with the Marquis de Lafayette of France, who spoke in the House chamber on December 10, 1824.
Ronak D Desai, a Fellow at New America and an Affiliate at the Belfer Center’s India and South Asia Program at Harvard University, said, “an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to address a Joint Meeting of Congress is significant, given past US policy towards Modi during his time as Chief Minister of Gujarat.”
Modi’s visit is likely to be the last official meeting between the two leaders during President Obama’s final year in office.
Top American lawmakers welcomed the decision of Ryan to invite Modi to address joint meeting if the US Congress.
“I applaud Speaker Ryan for inviting Prime Minister Modi to address a Joint Meeting of Congress, and I look forward to welcoming the Prime Minister to the Capitol. This address will serve as a sign of the deep and important relationship between the US and India,” said Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Our partnership in areas such as defence, nuclear power, renewable energy and space exploration is very strong, thanks to our many shared values. I look forward to hearing from Prime Minister Modi about how we can continue working together to promote peace and prosperity,” Royce said.
“I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi to Washington in June, where his address to a Joint Session of Congress will explore how our two nations can work together to further our shared values and interests,” said Tulsi Gabbard, the first ever Hindu lawmaker elected to the US Congress.
“As the world’s oldest and largest democracies, the US and India have many shared values and objectives. Since Prime Minister Modi was first elected in 2014, he has made active engagement with the US a priority on many levels including exploring mutually beneficial economic opportunities, stronger government-to-government relations, and enhanced security engagements,” she said.
Earlier this month, Gabbard, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, wrote to Ryan encouraging him to invite Modi to address the Congress.
“I’m pleased that Speaker Ryan has granted my request,” said Congressman Ami Bera, the only Indian-American in the current Congress.
“India is a key partner of the US, and this will be an opportunity for members of Congress to learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing our two nations,” he said.
Last week, Bera and Royce along with two other lawmakers had urged Ryan to invite Modi to address a joint session of Congress.
Earlier today, Ryan told reporters that Modi would be the leader to address a joint meeting of the Congress after he became the Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
“This will be the first joint meeting of this speakership. We certainly look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi in the United States Capitol this summer, I believe it’s June 8th,” Ryan said.
“India is the most populace democracy and soon it’s going to be the most populace country. The friendship between our nations is a pillar of stability in a very, very important region. This address presents a special opportunity for us to deepen our ties with our ally, India,” he said.
“It is a chance to hear from the prime minister on how we can work together to promote our shared values and to increase prosperity,” Ryan said.