Top U.S. House of Representatives from the Foreign Affairs Committee called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress during a visit to Washington in June this year. Invitations to address the Senate and House are considered a great honor. There have been only two in the past year: Pope Francis, on September 24, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on April 29, 2015.
The invitation would be a sharp turnaround for a leader who was once barred from the United States over massacres of Muslims. In 2002, when Modi had just become Gujarat’s chief minister, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in sectarian riots in the state. The administration of President George W. Bush denied Modi a visa in 2005 under a 1998 U.S. law barring entry to foreigners who have committed “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
“Given the depth of our relationship with India across a range of areas – defence, humanitarian and disaster relief, space cooperation, conservation and innovation – we believe this is an ideal opportunity for the Congress to hear directly from the prime minister,” Representatives Ed Royce, the Republican committee chairman, and Eliot Engel, the panel’s ranking Democrat, wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan. The letter to Ryan was also signed by Republican Representative George Holding and Democrat Ami Bera, the co-chairmen of the Congress Caucus on India and Indian Americans. A spokeswoman for Ryan said she had no announcement at this time about whether Ryan would extend the invitation.