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Indian PM Narendra Modi Set to Address U.S. Congress

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be fifth Indian prime minister to make such an address to US Congress

U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a working dinner in the East Room of the White House March 31, 2016 in Washington, DC. PHOTO: OLIVIER DOULIERY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in June as he prepares to make his fourth visit to America in his two years in office.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement Thursday he had invited Mr. Modi to Capitol Hill, describing India-U.S. ties as “a pillar of strength in an important region of the world.”

 Every full-term prime minister since 1984 has addressed a joint meeting of the House and Senate and Mr. Modi will be the fifth, speaking 11 years after his predecessor, Manmohan Singh. The first-ever Indian premier to make such a speech was Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, followed by P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1994 and Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2000.

Mr. Modi couldn’t address Congress on his first visit to Washington as prime minister in the fall of 2014 because of what then Speaker John Boehner called “the unpredictability of the House schedule.” That visit was seen as a turning point in Mr. Modi’s relations with the U.S., which had denied the Indian leader a visa in 2005 over religious riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002, when he was chief minister. More than 1,000 people were killed in the violence, most of them Muslims.

In the years following the killings, some U.S. Congressmen joined rights groups in condemning Mr. Modi’s leadership. Washington opened up to Mr. Modi only shortly before his election as prime minister when it became clear he was the frontrunner.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mr. Modi have since developed a close rapport, and Mr. Modi has brought New Delhi closer to the U.S. by enhancing defense ties. The U.S. sees India as an important partner, particularly to counterbalance China’s growing clout and ambitions in Asia.

On Mr. Modi’s previous trips to the U.S., he has taken time to address the country’s vast Indian diaspora, met with Silicon Valley honchos and spoken at the United Nations.

The dates and itinerary for Mr. Modi’s trip to Washington this summer have not been officially announced. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that the Obama administration was in conversation with Indian officials about scheduling a visit to the White House.


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