Narendra Modi
Narendra ModiReuters

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi had received a consensus-backed invitation to address the joint session of the United States Congress during his visit in September, the "unpredictability of the House schedule" will not permit him to take up the honour.

The news of the invite extended to Modi by the US Congress had bolstered the mood between the two nations that have witnessed several jolts in the recent past, and US Senator John McCain had himself reportedly pressed for Modi's address.

However, House Speaker John Boehner informed Modi in a letter addressed on 30 July that the Congress could not invite him due to "unpredictability of the House schedule", according to Foreign Policy, which has a copy of the letter.

"If not for the unpredictability of the House schedule in late September of this year, an invitation for you to address a Joint Meeting during your upcoming trip to the United States would have been extended," Boehner wrote.

An opportunity to address the joint session of the Congress is considered to be the highest honour that the Congress extends to any head of state.

While the opportunity may not be completely lost, given that Modi has been offered to address the Congress at any later date, it could leave Modi's first visit to the United States, after taking charge of the Indian government, incomplete.

"I would be very interested in exploring with you the possibility of a visit to the United States Capitol and an address to a joint meeting of Congress should your travels bring you back to our country in the months and years ahead," the letter reads.

While Modi was expected to address the Congress in the last week of September, the House leadership may call for an early recess in September ahead of mid-term elections, according to FP.

Related Story : Modi Likely to Address US Congressional Joint Session in September

Modi's relations with the United States have come a long way, from being denied a US visa in 2005 due to his alleged involvement in the Gujarat riots to being offered the US Congress' highest honour, though it will not be fulfilled any time soon. 

The US visa snub had brought serious indignity to Modi, who was then the Gujarat Chief Minister. Even while his relations have improved with the US, with US Defence Secretary currently in India to discuss defence ties with the Modi government, Modi's decision to not support the World Trade Organisation deal has not gone down well with the US. The two nations have also differed on their outlook towards Israel's offensive in Gaza.

Related Stories: India Stands Up for Poor Nations on WTO Deal, Faces Heat From Richer Ones

The cancellation could lead to disappointment on the Indian side, as his speech was being seen as one of the significant highlights of his visit, along with his address to the UN General Assembly.

"I am very disappointed that the newly elected leader of a democratic country of 1.3 billion people will not be able to address the Congress. As India plays an increasingly important role on the global stage, US-India ties have never been more relevant, and I hope Republican leaders in Congress realize that this is a lost opportunity," Joe Crowley, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans told The Hindustan Times.

The Democratic and Republican co-chairs of the caucus are working to organize an event that Modi can address, according to HT.

"Since the expectation of a speech was made public ... Indian and American policymakers are now going to have to manage the disappointment that results from it not materializing," Tanvi Madan, a fellow at the Brookings Institution told FP.

Former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee have both addressed the US Congress.

Quick Links