Indian Leader Speaks to Congress

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to a joint session of Congress this week amid a warming U.S.-Indian economic and defense relationship. Declaring that “freedom and liberty form a strong bond between our two democracies, “ Prime Minister Modi added, "As a representative of the world's largest democracy, it is indeed a privilege to speak to the leaders of its oldest.”

The prime minister received great applause (full video here). However, there were those who raised points of concern outside this joint session. In particular, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which was denied visas for its officials to visit India earlier this year, used social media to point to its religious freedom report. USCIRF there described India’s “negative trajectory in terms of religious freedom” and found that “minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups.” The independent watchdog agency also alleged that members of Prime Minister Modi’s political party “tacitly supported these groups and used religiously-divisive language to further inflame tensions.” Regarding such accusations, the Wall Street Journal reported that Indian Ambassador Arun Singh commented, “We don’t believe any society has the right to preach to another society about what it should and should not do.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: June 10, 2016

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