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Senior U.S. Lawmakers want Modi to address U.S. Congress in June

Invitation to address Senate and House is considered a great honor. Past year Pope Francis and Japanese PM Abe were the only invitees.

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses a gathering in New Delhi, India, January 16, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
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U.S. Capitol, Washington DC. Wikimedia Commons
U.S. Capitol, Washington DC. Wikimedia Commons

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee called on Tuesday for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress during a visit to Washington in June.

“Given the depth of our relationship with India across a range of areas – defense, humanitarian and disaster relief, space cooperation, conservation and innovation – we believe this is an ideal opportunity for the Congress to hear directly from the prime minister,” Representatives Ed Royce, the Republican committee chairman, and Eliot Engel, the panel’s ranking Democrat, wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The invitation would be a sharp turnaround for a leader who was once barred from the United States over massacres of Muslims.

A spokeswoman for Ryan said she had no announcement at this time about whether Ryan would extend the invitation.

Invitations to address the Senate and House are considered a great honor. There have been only two in the past year: Pope Francis, on Sept. 24, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on April 29, 2015.

When Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies swept India’s elections in 2014, there initially were questions about whether he would qualify for a visa. President Barack Obama quickly dismissed the issue by inviting him to the White House when he called to congratulate him on his victory.

In 2002, when Modi had just become Gujarat’s chief minister, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in sectarian riots in the state.

The administration of President George W. Bush denied Modi a visa in 2005 under a 1998 U.S. law barring entry to foreigners who have committed “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

Modi denied any wrongdoing. India’s Supreme Court ruled in 2010 he had no case to answer.

Washington sees its relationship with India as critical, partly to counterbalance China’s rising power. Obama has called it “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”

The letter to Ryan was also signed by Republican Representative George Holding and Democrat Ami Bera, the co-chairmen of the Congress Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle)

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Modi to lay foundation stone for Abu Dhabi’s first Indian temple

The temple compound will include a visitors' centre, prayer halls, exhibition centre, learning areas, sports area for children and youths, thematic gardens, water features, a food court, books and gift shop and other facilities

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will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
  • This is Modi’s second visit to the UAE after August 2015
  • Modi was scheduled to arrive here in the evening
  • The temple’s construction will be completed by 2020, and open to people of all religious backgrounds

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Sunday laid the foundation stone for the first Hindu temple in the United Arab Emirates’ capital, which is home to a huge Indian diaspora.

This is Modi’s second visit to the UAE after August 2015. He was scheduled to arrive here in the evening.

“The first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi will come up on 55,000 square metres of land and the groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday will be a historic event,” said Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri.

The Indian leader will be laying the foundation stone for the temple from the Dubai Opera House via video conferencing. He will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community.

“The occasion is going to be historic… because it will also see the commencement of the first Hindu Temple in Abu Dhabi. We are very pleased that we have received 55,000 square metres of land near Al Rahba off the Dubai-Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Highway,” said Suri.

The temple’s construction will be completed by 2020, and open to people of all religious backgrounds.

It will be the first traditional Hindu stone temple in the Middle East, said a spokesperson from the BAPS Swaminarayanan Sanstha that is entrusted with the design, construction and management of the temple.

Also Read: Kerala Tourism to organise promotion event in Abu Dhabi to attract cash-rich Arab travellers

The temple will be hand-carved by Indian temple artisans and assembled in the UAE, said the BAPS spokesperson.

The UAE has two Hindu temples which are located in Dubai. Devotees from Abu Dhabi and other emirates have to drive to Dubai for prayers and offerings.

The temple compound will include a visitors’ centre, prayer halls, exhibition centre, learning areas, sports area for children and youths, thematic gardens, water features, a food court, books and gift shop and other facilities.

Sadhu Brahmaviharidas, the chief spokesperson of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, said the generous gift of land for a Hindu temple by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, “was a strong and sound message to the world that cultural and spiritual inclusiveness is the way forward for global harmony”.

It will replicate the BAPS temple in New Delhi and the one under construction in New Jersey, a trust member told the Khaleej Times.

BAPS manages 1,200 temples in India, UK, the US, Australia, Canada and Africa.

Also Read: Abu Dhabi keeps the Smart City dream alive

Meanwhile, the UAE’s iconic buildings like the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Frame, Adnoc building and the Emirates Palace were lit up in colours of India’s flag ahead of Modi’s visit to the country.

Modi’s high-level engagements here include bilateral meetings with top UAE leaders and a keynote address at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Sunday, in which India is the guest country.

Earlier in the day, Modi was in Ramallah where he received a rousing welcome on the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Palestine. (IANS)