India-U.S. Ties Are the World’s ‘Defining Partnership of This Century’

India-U.S. Ties Are the World’s ‘Defining Partnership of This Century’

WASHINGTON, DC – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on Capitol Hill on Thursday to address a joint meeting of Congress as part of a multi-day tour through the United States aimed at building on U.S.-India relations.

Modi, flanked by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Vice President Kamala Harris, spoke to members of the House and Senate about democracy, the Russia-Ukraine war, economy, health care, and advancements in technology and the environment, among other topics.

The prime minister was met with heavy rounds of applause when he entered the House chamber, and attendees in the chamber’s gallery could be heard chanting “Modi! Modi!”

He opened his remarks by expressing his “deepest gratitude on behalf of the 1.4 billion people of India,” the world’s most populous country, and would later reiterate India’s size as he touted its economic growth.

“When India grows, the whole world grows,” Modi said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) walk to a meeting ahead of a joint meeting of Congress at the U.S. Capitol on June 22, 2023. (Ashley Oliver/Breitbart News)

Modi also peppered his speech with humor, saying to McCarthy at one point, “Mr. Speaker, you have a tough job!” and “Indian Americans have played a big role. They are brilliant in every field, not just in spelling bees.”

In a nod to Harris, who is part Indian, he said, “There is one behind me, who has made history!”

Modi repeatedly mentioned India and the United States’ democratic common ground, saying, “Our partnership augurs well for the future of democracy.”

He received a few standing ovations throughout the speech, including at one point when he spoke on freedom of religion, a controversial topic for India, where persecution of Christians has grown exponentially under Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

India is home to many religions and “we celebrate all of them,” Modi claimed.

Urging an end to the Russia-Ukraine war also prompted standing applause from both parties, but Modi did not specifically mention Russia amid underlying unease over India’s friendliness with the key U.S. adversary.

The conflict in Ukraine “is causing great pain” in Europe, he said, noting that “the global order is based on the respect for the principles of the U.N. charter, peaceful resolution of disputes, and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Modi added, “As I have said directly and publicly, this is not an era of war.”

While a majority of members attended the speech, a few left-wing members, primarily from the “Squad,” announced they would skip it in protest.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (R-MN) wrote in a statement, “I will NOT be attending Modi’s speech. I WILL be holding a briefing with human rights groups to discuss Modi’s record of repression and violence.”

Rep. Summer Lee (D-PA), who has been floated as a potential Squad recruit, said the Indian government “has targeted journalists, emboldened violent Hindu nationalist groups, and jailed political opponents – I will NOT be attending his address today.”

Others boycotting the event included Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

One top Democrat, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), clarified after some erroneous reports that he was not boycotting the event but rather missing it for his daughter’s wedding. He noted he joined dozens of his Democrat colleagues in pressing President Joe Biden to address concerns of human rights abuses with Modi, however.

Following the joint meeting, Modi was set to attend a White House state dinner with Biden. The traditionally lavish affair, the third of Biden’s tenure, would be largely meatless this time around because Modi is vegetarian.

Modi also met with Biden earlier in the day on Thursday. Referencing the president, the prime minister told Congress, “I agree with President Biden that this is a defining partnership of this century.”

Write to Ashley Oliver at Follow her on Twitter at @asholiver.

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[By: Ashley Oliver

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