Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited to address Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. congressional leaders have invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress during a visit to Washington later this month as the United States seeks to deepen their ties with India, the world’s most populous democracy, to counter China. growing influence even as Modi has been criticized for eroding India’s democratic traditions and human rights.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other leaders announced Friday that Modi had been asked to deliver the speech on June 22, saying in a letter that the “partnership between our two countries continues to grow” and calling the speech “an opportunity to share your vision for the future of India and to talk about the global challenges facing our two countries.”

The United States is seeking to forge stronger ties abroad — particularly in Asia — to counter China’s aggression in the region. Modi’s speech to Congress would come during a state visit with President Joe Biden, which includes plans to celebrate Modi with high diplomatic honors reserved for close US allies.

The White House said Modi’s visit will be an opportunity to strengthen its commitment to a free and secure Indo-Pacific region, as well as develop technology partnerships and fight climate change.

Biden met Modi in Japan last month at the Group of Seven summit, and he was due to travel with the prime minister for subsequent meetings in Papua New Guinea and Australia. But the second leg of Biden’s trip was canceled so the president could return home to deal with the standoff with House Republicans over lifting the US national debt.

Congress regularly hosts heads of state to speak at a joint meeting, a high-profile opportunity to showcase ties between the United States and other nations. Modi became India’s fifth prime minister to address Congress in 2016.

Modi’s visit seven years ago came after the politician was shunned for years due to religious violence in his home state when he was chief minister. Since becoming India’s prime minister in 2014, his Hindu nationalist party has stifled dissent, suppressed 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 was also only mildly critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and refused to impose any sanctions.

Despite these concerns, the United States has more to gain than lose from a close friendship with India, the White House has explained. Biden is seeking to bolster the Quad, an international partnership with the United States, Australia, India and Japan that is seen as a potential bulwark against China’s dominance in the region.

Congressional leaders seemed to agree. Their letter to Modi states, “We look forward to paving the way for greater collaboration between our countries in the years to come.”

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