US Congress leaders have invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint meeting of lawmakers during his upcoming state visit in June, setting him up to become the first Indian leader to this rare honor Washington D.C. affords to foreign leaders.
There is however, no word yet from New Delhi if the Prime Minister has accepted the invitation.
“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 jointly wrote in a letter to Modi on Friday.
This is a bipartisan invitation that underscores the bipartisan support enjoyed by US ties with India, transcending the parties in power on both sides or the occupants of 7 Race Course and the White House.
Prime Minister Modi is coming to the US for his first state visit on June 22 at the invitation of President Joe Biden, with a state dinner, which is being accorded to an Indian leader after 14 years. Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the last, hosted by former President Barack Obama in 2009.
But Modi will have the singular honor for an Indian Prime Minister to address the US Congress twice. His first was in 2016, and that speech is remembered for a formulation that he had used to describe the arduous journey taken by the bilateral relationship: it had “overcome the hesitations of history”.
In 2016, Modi became the sixth Indian Prime Minister to address Congress, jointly or separately: Jawaharlal Nehru was the the first, addressing the House and Senate separately in 1949, Rajiv Gandhi became the second in 1985, P.V. Narasimha Rao became the third in 1994, Atal Bihari Vajpayee the fourth in 2000 and Manmohan Singh the fifth in 2005.
Modi could now become both the sixth and seventh Indian Prime Minister to speak to Congress, and the first to do so twice.
This invitation to Modi was initiated by two members of the House of Representatives who head the India Caucus — Ro Khanna, a Democrat, and Micheal Waltz, a Republican.
They first indicated they were planning to ask Speaker McCarthy to invite Modi at an India summit they hosted on Capitol Hill in April for lawmakers, policy experts and Indian American community leaders to talk about the future of the India-US relationship.
They wrote to Speaker McCarthy last week requesting him to invite Prime Minister Modi, and the four congressional leaders, representing both the Democratic and Republican parties, took it up.