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July 29, 2000
Vajpayee invited to address US Congress
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been invited to address a joint session of the United States Congress during his visit to Washington.
US House of Representatives speaker J Dennis Hastert Saturday formally extended an invitation to Vajpayee, through the Indian embassy, to address the session on September 14.
Recalling that US President Bill Clinton addressed a joint session of Parliament during his visit to India, Senate subcommittee on India and other near-east and South Asian nations chairman, Republican Senator Sam Brownback, said the reciprocal honour to Vajpayee "will mark strengthening of bonds of friendship between people of the two largest democracies."
A joint meeting of Congress "will afford all members the opportunity to meet and discuss issues of importance to the Indo-US relationship, including trade, energy, investment, science and technology, and US-India co-operative efforts to combat terrorism and to achieve regional peace and security in South Asia," he said.
Brownback, who has been demanding lifting of remaining sanctions against India, noted that over a quarter of the membership of the Senate signed on his letter urging the speaker to extend such an invitation.
Several members of both political parties immediately welcomed the invitation to Vajpayee.
Congressman Jim McDermott, a founding member of the 110-member Indian caucus, said he was "excited that Hastert invited Vajpayee.''
"This will be a wonderful opportunity for India to engage the Congress on a wide range of issues," he said.
"While on the presidential visit to India in March, we suggested to Vajpayee that we would love to see him address a joint session of Congress, and the Congressional caucus on India and Indian Americans lobbied very hard to bring that desire to fruition. We could not be more pleased that it has happened," Gary Ackerman, co-chairman of the Indian caucus said.
Twenty-nine Senators -- 18 Republicans and 11 Democrats out of 100 members -- had written to the speaker, urging him to extend an invitation to Vajpayee.
According to protocol, the speaker issues such invitations.
The last Indian prime minister to address a joint session of Congress was Narasimha Rao.
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