Modi at Capitol Hill: Wows US Congress, Earns 8 Standing Ovations
Top 5 takeaways from Modi’s speech at Capitol Hill.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 45-minute address to the US Congress at Capitol Hill included some humour, lots of references to the deepening India-US relations, and some tough talk on terror.
We bring to you the five key takeaways of the Indian Prime Minister’s speech.
All in Good Humour
PM Modi drew laughter from the lawmakers crowding the House chamber with a tongue-in-cheek description of the rough and tumble politics of the US - which he likened to the Rajya Sabha back home.
But the remark may tick off some Opposition members back home, taking it to be a veiled reference to the stalled GST Bill in the Upper House.
The ruling coalition is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, that has allowed the opposition, led by the Congress, to block key legislation and reforms.
Modi did not name Pakistan but had a clear message in his speech to the US Congress: terrorism “is incubated in India’s neighbourhood,” he said, stressing that those who harbour, support or sponsor terrorists, must be “isolated”.
He also praised the US Congress for “refusing to reward” those who preach and practice terrorism. He was alluding to US lawmakers’ recent opposition to a proposed, US-subsided sale of F-16 fighter jets to arch rival Pakistan.
The “Verbal” Commitment to Freedom of Speech
The Prime Minister talked of his government’s commitment to freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. But the timing of the statement is highly ironic as it comes amid the raging controversy over the Censor Board’s proposed 89 cuts in the movie Udta Punjab.
While, in Dadri, where 50-year-old Akhlaq was lynched to death for allegedly consuming beef, members of the BJP have been clamouring to have his family arrested for the alleged cow slaughter.
The India-US Bonhomie
Modi described the US as an “indispensable partner” for India. India’s large population of 1.25 billion people and its expanding economy made it an “ideal partner” for American businesses, he said. Trade has expanded dramatically in recent years, from $60 billion in 2009 to $107 billion in 2015, although the US remains concerned over the govt’s restrictions on foreign investment and bureaucratic red tape.
While India has resists the notion of becoming a US ally, both nations share common concerns on China, and over freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific region.
As Sadanand Dhume, an American Enterprise Institute expert on India, notes, that with the US’ patience with Pakistan thinning, “Suddenly India begins to look like a better partner for the US, and the US looks like an invaluable partner for India.”
Nukes on My Mind
Nukes made an expected entry in Modi’s speech, as he applauded the US Congress for crafting a civilian nuclear deal in 2008 that lifted US export restrictions on nuclear technology to India. His remarks came close on the heels of the start of preparatory work of building six nuclear reactors in India, which is a key step in closing the first deal stemming from a US-India civil nuclear accord that was struck more than a decade ago.
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