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India's prime minister praises 'beauty of democracy' in speech to U.S. Congress

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India gestures after addressing a joint session of Congress as Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and Vice President Kamala Harris applaud at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI
1 of 6 | Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India gestures after addressing a joint session of Congress as Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and Vice President Kamala Harris applaud at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

June 22 (UPI) -- India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a "new world order based on international law" while touting his country's strengthening partnership with the United States in a speech to Congress on Thursday.

In his speech, Modi touted India's defense ties with the United States, called for an end to Russia's war in Ukraine, and urged U.S. lawmakers to embrace bipartisanship among their own ranks.

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He also praised diversity and the power of women in his hour-long remarks.

"The beauty of democracy is the constant connection with the people to listen to them ... And I know this takes a lot of time, energy, effort and travel. I also know how busy you've been this last month, being a city of vibrant democracy," Modi said early in his speech in Washington, D.C.

Later in his speech, Modi noted that India is home to more than 2,500 political parties with 22 official languages and thousands of spoken dialects.

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"Yet we speak in one voice," Modi said of his country. "We are home to all faiths in the world and we celebrate all of them. In India, diversity is a natural way of life."

Modi entered the chamber with cheers of his name by members of Congress and was flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

"I can admit one thing, Mr. Speaker, you have a tough job. I can relate to the battles of policy. I can understand the debate of ideas and ideology. But I'm delighted to see you come together to celebrate the bond between the world's two great democracies, India and the United States," Modi said.

"I am happy to help out. I am happy to help out whenever you need it with a strong bipartisan consensus. There will be and there must be a contest of ideas at home but we must also come together as one when we speak for our nation. And you have shown that you can do it. Congratulations."

Modi, who leads the world's largest democracy and most populous country in the world, struck a chord as he noted that "democracy is one of our sacred and shared values."

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India is home to some 1.4 billion people, about a sixth of the world's population.

"The foundation of America was inspired by the building of a nation of equal people. Throughout your history, you embraced people from around the world and you have made them equal partners in the American dream," Modi said.

"There are millions here who have roots in India, some of them sit proudly in this chamber, and there is one behind me who has made history," Modi added, pointing behind him to Harris. McCarthy clapped and rose at Modi's remarks. "I'm told that the samosa caucus is now the flavor of the House."

While speaking of diversity, Modi paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. before name-dropping the late congressman John Lewis, who he said worked "for liberty, equality and justice."

Modi said India has become the world's fifth largest economy by focusing on infrastructure developments, such as providing homes to 40 million people -- "nearly six times the population of Australia."

"We have a national health insurance program that ensures free medical treatment for about 500 million people, that is greater than the population of South America," Modi said.

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"There are more than 850 million smartphone and Internet users in the country. This is more than the population of Europe. We protected our people with more than 2.2 million doses of made-in-India vaccines and that is at free cost."

Modi also praised the young people of India who are focusing on developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technologies.

"They are brilliant in every field, not just in spelling bee," the prime minister quipped. During his speech, Modi added that, in India, technology is "not about innovation but also about inclusion."

He said that, with technology, students in India are quickly able to receive financial aid and that seniors are able to access social security "with just a tap on their phones" -- a message that could resonate with some of the more conservative members of the U.S. Congress.

"Women are leading us to a better future," Modi said, adding that India's President Droupadi Murmu -- the country's official head of state -- rose to power from a "humble tribal background."

"Nearly 1.5 million elected women lead us at various levels and that is of local governments. Today, women serve our country in the Army, Navy and Air Force. India also has the highest percentage of women airline pilots in the world and they have also help put us on Mars by leading our Mars mission."

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Modi also urged for increased efforts to combat climate change and said India culture "deeply respects the environment and our planet." He said that India believes quality healthcare for everyone "including animals and plants."

"The world is one family," Modi said. "One Earth, one family, one future."

Near the end of his speech, Modi said that the Ukraine conflict "is causing great pain the region" and that the effects of the war are having ramifications for nations in the global south -- such as Africa and South America. He pushed for full membership of the African Union into the G20.

"The global order is based on the respect of the principle of the U.N. charter, respect for sovereignty and integrity," Modi said.

"I'll now say directly and publicly, this is not an era of war. But, it is one of dialogue and diplomacy and we all must do what we can to stop the bloodshed and humans suffering."

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