India and the US have made great strides in their relationship in the past few years and are set for quantum leap in cooperation in areas ranging from trade and investment to defence and counter-terrorism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his address to the joint session of US Congress on Wednesday. “Our relationship is primed for a momentous future,“ he said to applause in a 45-minute speech laced with humour that was interrupted by several standing ovations. “The foundations for the future are firmly in place...there is a new symphony in play.“
As the world's fastest-growing economy, India is creating new opportunities for mutual prosperity, said Modi, the fifth Indian prime minister to address a joint session of Congress. “The US is an indispensable partner,“ Modi said. “A stronger and prosperous India is in America's strategic interest. Let us work together to convert shared ideals into practical cooperation.There can be no doubt that in advancing this relationship, both nations stand to gain.“
As US businesses search for new markets, skilled resources and manufacturing locations, “India could be an ideal partner“, he said. The prime minister cited the civil nuclear accord as a historic watershed. “In the fall of 2008, when the US Congress passed the civil nuclear accord, it changed the nature of the relationship,“ Modi said.
The US is backing India's push to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group with the signatories to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) having agreed to admit New Delhi. Modi had a tough message to deliver on terrorism. Those who believe in humanity must unite against terrorism, which exists in the form of various groupings such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Taliban and ISIS, all of which are defined by a pathology of hate, murder and violence. He also pinpointed the source of this threat. “It is incubated in India's neighbourhood,“ he said, without naming any country.
“I commend Congress for sending a clear message to those who preach and practice terrorism for political gains. Refusing to reward them is the first step to holding them accountable for their actions,“ Modi said. “Terror has to be fought at many levels, traditional tools won't be enough. The need of the hour is for us to deepen our security cooperation and base it on a policy that isolates those who support and harbour terrorism... that delinks religion from terrorism.“
Modi said both nations were linked by “a unique and dynamic bridge of 3 million“ Indian-Americans. “Today they are among your best CEOs, academics, astronauts, scientists, economists, doctors... even Spelling Bee champions,“ he said amid laughter. “They are your strength, they are also the pride of India. They symbolise the best of both our societies.“The competition has been dominated by Americans of Indian origin in the past decade or so.
Modi also revealed a little-known facet of his early life -a visit to the US -which afforded him an understanding of the land and its people, linking that with what India is undergoing right now.
“Long before assuming office, I travelled coast to coast covering more than 25 states of America. I realised then that the real strength of the US was in the dreams of its people and the boldness of their ambitions,“ he said. “Today ,a similar spirit animates India.“
His goal was to make Indians socially and economically empowered by 2022.“My to-do list is long and ambitious,“ he said. It includes a vibrant rural economy, housing for all, electricity for every home, skill development, smart cities, broadband for a billion, connecting villages to the digital world and creating a 21st century rail and road infrastructure while keeping the environment in mind.
“These are goals to be reached in a finite time frame with a light carbon footprint with a great emphasis on renewables,“ Modi said.
He joked about the similarities between India's Parliament and the US Congress. Both have seen those on either side of the political spectrum clashing bitterly. “Mr Speaker, I am informed that the working of the US Congress is harmonious,“ said Modi, who was dressed in a white kurta-pyjama and Nehru jacket. “I am also told that you are well known for your bipartisanship. Well, you are not alone. Time and again, I have also witnessed a similar spirit in Indian Parliament, especially in the Upper House.“