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Indian prime minister to Congress: U.S.-India relationship 'indispensable'

The address is the first given by India's prime minister to a joint session of Congress since 2005.

By Doug G. Ware
Indian prime minister to Congress: U.S.-India relationship 'indispensable'
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to American lawmakers during a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Modi is the fifth Indian prime minister to address American lawmakers at the Capitol, and the first since 2005. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 8 (UPI) -- A day after visiting President Barack Obama at the White House, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to members of Congress on Capitol Hill Wednesday, where he praised India's "indispensable" relationship with the United States.

In his address before a joint session of Congress, Modi touched on numerous issues but particularly expressed his appreciation for U.S. support against terrorism -- saying New Delhi's relationship with Washington cannot be substituted.

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"Today our relationship has overcome the hesitations of history," Modi said. "In every sector of India's forward march, I see the U.S. as an indispensable partner.

"Terrorism must be de-legitimized."

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, as Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., look on. Modi's address came one day after he met with President Barack Obama at the White House. Photo byPat Benic/UPI

Modi, the first Indian prime minister to address the U.S. Congress in more than a decade, also expressed gratitude for American support in the face of an expansionist China.

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"In Asia, the absence of an agreed security architecture creates uncertainty," he said, without naming China.

Modi's address was given one day after a meeting at the White House with Obama, during which the leaders talked about similar issues, including India's participation in December's controversial Paris climate change agreement.

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Tuesday, Modi pledged his nation's support for the pact, known as COP21, and told Obama that India will sign it, which could put the controversial agreement into force before the end of the year.

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"As the oldest and largest democracies, the U.S. and India have a special relationship," said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Our partnership on such issues as defense, nuclear power, renewable energy and space exploration is very strong. And I'm confident that Prime Minister Modi's address will provide new momentum for additional progress."

Modi, India's prime minister since 2014, hasn't always enjoyed a good relationship with the American government. Before he was elected prime minister, he was barred from entering the United States over controversy surrounding deadly religion-inspired riots in the mid-2000s in his home state of Gujarat, where he was a top local government official.

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The last Indian prime minister to address the United States Congress was Manmohan Singh in 2005.

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