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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
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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Can Modi’s ‘AIM’ Challenge Global Manufacturing Hub China’s Dominance?

PM Modi has set his eye on water management, agriculture and security issues

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Modi, AIM, Global
The prime focus of the government as well as NITI Aayog remains on accelerating the pace of manufacturing sector in India. Flickr

Eyeing the global revolution in tech-innovations, the Modi government, in its second avatar, is all set to redefine the scope of ‘Knowledge and Innovation’ at NITI Aayog. Before leaving for his foreign visit to the Maldives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a series of meetings with technocrats, top officials and key cabinet colleagues, discussing how to radically redefine innovations and technology on manufacturing front to compete with China.

Over all, the prime focus of the government as well as NITI Aayog remains on accelerating the pace of manufacturing sector in India. On domestic front, PM Modi has set his eye on water management, agriculture and security issues and he would likely underline his priorities once he chairs the first big meeting of NITI Aayog, on June 15.

In the wake of sharp criticism from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on the alleged failure of NITI Aayog, the government now seems more determined to take the Aayog to a new height, inducting domain specialists at the rank of Joint Secretary and above.

“The PM’s dream project is the success of the Atal Innovation Mission,(AIM) the flagship project of NITI Aayog to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. If AIM takes off well, the country would soon be a substitute for China as a global manufacturing hub. In fact AIM complements Make In India, Digital India and Start up India mega projects,” said a senior NITI Aayog official.

Modi, AIM, Global
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a series of meetings with technocrats. Pixabay

To provide impetus to the industrial growth, the NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar recently told media that a slew of big bang economic reforms are being pursued by the Modi government. These include change in labour laws, privatization moves and land banks for new industrial development. Once the stage is set for a positive industrial environment, the innovation mission will finally accelerate the growth of the manufacturing sector.

Global tech giants such as Adobe, Amazon, Dell, IBM, Intel and Microsoft are already partnering with Atal Innovation Mission. The AIM project serves as a platform for promotion of world-class innovation hubs, and self-employment activities in technology-driven areas.

Through AIM, the government expects a radical change in country’s MSME industry.

Earlier in Modi’s first tenure as PM, his Cabinet Minister Kalraj Mishra and later Minister for State (Independent Charge) Giriraj Singh did not impress the business fraternity while running the ministry for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). In an after thought, Modi in his second innings gave the charge of this crucial ministry to Nitin Gadkari, known for delivering the goods on time.

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“Modi ji had spoken about the project to Gadkari ji. He (Gadkari) was more than willing to take up this challenge. I am sure MSME would now be one of the most important ministries in the government as it also addresses the problem of unemployment and lack of a fast-paced industrial growth,” said a BJP leader close to Gadkari.

Another big change on the scene is the Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL). It is Modi’s long-term plan for revolutionizing the young Indian minds. The ATLs are innovation workplaces where do-it-yourself kits on latest technologies like 3D printers, Robotics, Internet of Things, are installed at schools using the government grant. The mission director of AIMs , R. Ramanan, an IITian, says that by next year 10,000 ATL workplaces in the Indian schools will bring radical change in the near future in the field of innovation.

The objective of PM Modi through mega ATL project, is to enable India to become a global leader in technology and innovations, the key to rule the modern-day industries. (IANS)