PM Modi to address US Congress: Five things to watch out for

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 08, 2016 17:09 IST
Five things to watch out for in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join a long list of world leaders when he walks up to address the joint session of the US Congress on Wednesday night.

Other Indian leaders who have had the honour before Modi are Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao, AB Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh.

Modi joins a galaxy of 117 leaders starting with former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (he addressed the Congress thrice) to Pope Francis, who was the last to address American lawmakers in September 2015.

Modi will the first leader to address the Congress this year.

Here are the five things to watch out for in his address.

1) How he says it and how he plays it

This is a big occasion. Prime Minister Modi would be placing India-US relationship in many contexts. First of all, how would it shape up a better future for the two countries and two peoples. He is addressing the lawmakers when regional geopolitics is in a flux and US is devoting a great deal of its military resources to the Indo-Pacific in view of an aggressive China. The joint statement issued after the meeting between President Obama and Modi dropped the mention of South China Sea. But how he plays up or down the ties with America in the regional context will be interesting to watch out for.

Read | Is the Modi-Obama equation a true friendship or smart politics?

2) Climate change

Despite all the spins given by the Indian side, a time-bound Indian commitment to the Paris climate deal was something the Americans had insisted and won. Getting the deal, the most ambitious plan of its kind, rolled out is crucial for the legacy of Barack Obama’s presidency. Republicans have never minced words about their opposition to the deal. But the climate deal will be in force if countries that constitute 55 per cent of world’s green house emission ratify the pact. (China said they would by September).

Now the question is, how would Prime Minister Modi as a leader of a developing nation place the issue of climate change, holding the developed world responsible for the mess more than the developing nations. And how the developing nations should help countries like India in fighting the challenge

3) Reforms of the United Nations Security Council

That the US supports India’s bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council is oft repeated. But the real question is whether the US is in favour of expansion of the council. There is nothing to suggest that yet. This would be a forum for the Prime Minister Modi to tell American lawmakers that the United Nations should reflect 21st century realities and countries such as India needs to be a permanent member.

Read | Modi and Obama flip the switch on nuclear power

4) Aligning his domestic policy with the foreign policy objectives

Prime Minister Modi has been insistent that his foreign policy should help his domestic economic policy and flagship schemes such as Make in India. The defence manufacturing sector is an area where the prime minister is keen on getting foreign investment and technology. India is also placing its bid for membership in the export control regimes like Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in the context of the potential its domestic industry has in areas such as the nuclear energy and space.

Read | India to open new consulate in Seattle

5) Terrorism

Modi is expected to make a strong pitch on the need to fight terror, with the subtext of troubles in India’s immediate neighbourhood. He is also likely to call upon the need to fight it through various measures globally.

Read | Stop maligning India’s image abroad: Shiv Sena’s Saamna to PM Modi

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