When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the US Congress on Wednesday, it will be his 10th address to a foreign parliament in the last two years. In what is seen as a new strategy to connect with the political class of foreign countries directly, Modi has so far addressed the parliaments of Afghanistan, Nepal, Australia, UK, Fiji, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Canada and Mongolia.
“This is his way of communicating directly with the people’s representatives and laying out a future roadmap in the relationship with all these countries,” a top Indian official told The Indian Express in Washington DC.
On Wednesday, Modi will address Americans and try to spell out how India and the US can work together and what they can contribute to the world through a “strategic partnership”.
Modi’s address will tackle all major issues of the day — from climate change to terrorism, defence and security cooperation to trade and economic relationship. It will be followed by meetings with the US House foreign relations committee and the Senate foreign relations committee, and a reception hosted by Speaker Paul Ryan.
After having built a broad-based equation over the last 15 years, there is a view in the Indian establishment that now is the time to give a “future direction” to the relationship.
“How can the two work together and shape the world, what are the key areas to contribute… and taking into account all the uncertainties of our times… the important thing is to lay out the roadmap ahead,” an official said ahead of Modi’s address to the US Congress.
With the US politics dominated by Hillary Clinton securing the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday night, Indian diplomats in Washington DC were working overtime on Monday and Tuesday to ensure a healthy attendance of lawmakers and their staff members.
“It’s a busy political season in the US right now. But, it’s mid-week and we are hoping to have more Congressmen in town,” a US Congressional staffer, who is coordinating with the Indian embassy, told The Indian Express. The Indian side is hoping that India Caucus members active on Capitol Hill attend in large numbers.
Prominent among them will be Congressman Ami Bera and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard — two Indian-origin lawmakers in the US Congress.
Ahead of Modi’s address, Gabbard told The Indian Express, “As the world’s oldest and largest democracies, the US and India have many shared values and objectives. Since Prime Minister Modi was first elected in 2014, he has made active engagement with the US a priority on many levels, including exploring mutually beneficial economic opportunities, stronger government-to-government relations, and enhanced security engagements. I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi to Congress on Wednesday, where his address will explore how our two nations can work together to further our shared values and interests.”
Modi will be the fifth Indian Prime Minister to address a joint meeting of the US Congress, after Manmohan Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, P V Narasimha Rao and Rajiv Gandhi. Jawaharlal Nehru had addressed the House of Representatives at a reception and had then made the same speech at the Senate separately.