Modi cracks jokes, talks terrorism with US Congress

Indian prime minister addresses American representatives and senators at Capitol Hill, calling for closer security ties and limiting China’s maritime ambitions.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, June 8, 2016.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the "the need of the hour was to deepen security cooperation" with the United States as he addressed a joint session of the US Congress on Wednesday.

He said India and the US should work more closely to defeat terrorism, head off regional instability and keep China's expansionist plans in check. 

"The fight against terrorism has to be fought at many levels. And the traditional tools of military, intelligence or diplomacy alone would not be able to win this fight," Modi told a rare joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives.

US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R) applaud as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives to address a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, June 8, 2016. 

Modi, referring to a terror attack allegedly carried out by a Pakistan-based militant group in 2008 that killed 166 in the city of Mumbai, said, "We have both lost civilians and soldiers in combating [terror]. The need of the hour is for us to deepen our security cooperation."

He added, "In the territory stretching from west of India's border to Africa, it may go by different names, from Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] to the Taliban to ISIS [DAESH]. But it's philosophy is common: of hate, murder and violence."


The Indian leader, skirting a direct reference to China's bold moves in the South China Sea, said a stronger partnership between his country and the US "can anchor peace, prosperity and stability from Asia to Africa and from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific."

Modi added, "It can also help ensure the security of the sea lanes and commerce and freedom of navigation on seas."

Though the US focused on its relationship with Pakistan during the Cold War and then after 9/11, its relationship with India is reflective of growing concerns in both countries over China's rise and its forays into the Asia-Pacific region. Today India and US conduct more drills with each other than any other nation and the Obama government sees a stronger India as a counterbalance to China.


The USS Normandy sails in the Bay of Bengal as US Navy fighter aircraft are stationed at the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during Exercise Malabar 2015. 

India and US, along with Japan, will hold a naval drill starting Friday for over eight days.

The exercise will be conducted with a fleet of destroyers in the Western Pacific near an island in Japan of which a part belongs to China.

From pariah to friend

Modi was once barred from entering the US for almost a decade. 

The US State Department used a 1998 law to prevent Modi's entry into the US over his handling of deadly riots by Hindus against Muslims in the Indian state of Gujrat. It is said over 1,000 people were killed in the riots, most of whom were Muslims.

The ban was lifted in 2014 prior to his first meeting with Obama in the US.

With the latest visit Modi became the fifth Indian prime minister to address Congress on Capitol Hill where he spoke for about 45 minutes. Rajiv Gandhi was the first Indian prime minister to speak at Capitol Hill in 1985.

Dressed in a grey vest and white shirt, Modi was relaxed and even cracked jokes about the divisive nature of both the Indian Parliament and the US Congress. His light-hearted demeanor was more reflective of a man sure of his professional and personal ties than of a man who at one point had been banned from entering the country

Modi is now considered one of the more popular international leaders in Washington, DC. Even if he did not address concerns on religious tolerance and human rights in India, the response from Democrats and Republicans was overall positive.

Meeting Obama

On Tuesday, Modi met with US President Barack Obama at the White House. 


President Barack Obama listens as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to members of the media during their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. 

Both leaders said India would work towards joining the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2016. They discussed security and cyber security issues.

Trade between India and the US expanded to $107 billion in 2015 from $60 billion in 2009. 

TRTWorld and agencies