Washington: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed US Congress on Wednesday. He spoke on issues ranging from climate change to terrorism, defence and security cooperation to trade and economic relationship. PM Modi was invited to Capitol Hill by House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan. Modi, the fifth Indian prime minister to address the US Congress, received a series of standing ovations and thunderous applause from lawmakers who increasingly see in India a democratic counterweight to China’s rise. It appears Modi has taken note.
In his speech to the US Congress on Wednesday morning (Washington time) Modi turned himself into a spinmeister. He drew as many parallels as possible to show the convergences. He said that Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience’ impacted India’s political thought. He forgot to mention that it was Mahatma Gandhi who acknowledged Thoreau’s influence. Then he pointed out that Swami Vivekananda’s famous speech was delivered in Chicago, that Ambedkar’s thinking was moulded during the time he spent at Columbia University a century ago.
PM Modi spoke the dialect of the US political establishment. Early in his speech, he invoked Abraham Lincoln. He then mentioned the Founding Fathers, before dwelling on Martin Luther King Jr. He linked his reference King to MK Gandhi and brought his comments on the shared Constitutional values to the time BR Ambedkar had spent at Columbia University.
“India is already assuming her responsibilities in securing the Indian Ocean region,” said Modi. “A strong India-US partnership can anchor peace, prosperity and stability from Asia to Africa and the Indian Ocean to the Pacific.”In an indirect reference to China, he also touted India’s "respect for global commons and for international rules and norms."
Modi also, in one sentence, mashed together America's greatest sporting tradition with one of its biggest fads or recent times, and also threw in an iPhone reference. "Siri tells us that more than 30 million practice Yoga. It is estimated that more Americans bend for yoga than to throw a curve ball. But no Mr Speaker, we have not yet claimed intellectual property right on it." In keeping with the seemingly all-American theme of his trip, PM Modi had begun with a visit to the Arlington National Cemetery, where over four lakh American soldiers lie buried. And with a finishing flourish on Capitol Hill, Modi will head off south to Mexico.
He recalled that the US stood by India in its time of sorrow as well, and referred to American solidarity with India during the terror attack in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. Then recalled that the US stood by India in its time of sorrow as well, and referred to American solidarity with India during the terror attack in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. He said a similar dream is now inspiring 800 million young people in India. He did not forget to bring in the familiar theme of terrorism and said that terrorism was being incubated in India’s neighbourhood. He praised the US Congress for sending out a clear message against those who use terrorism for political gains. This was of course a clear reference to the US Congress opposition to sale of F16s to Pakistan.
Modi had utilised the opportunity of addressing the US Congress well enough to put across India’s view of the friendship between the two countries, and the view of successive governments in India that friendship and partnership with America is a great boost to India on the international stage. He took care to say that there would be differences and divergences in perspectives between the two countries and that these differences would only add value to the relationship between the two countries.
As political speeches go, Modi delivered a good one, especially when he quoted Walt Whitman and extended the metaphor to say that a “new symphony is in play” where the “constraints of the past are behind” and “foundations for the future are in place.