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India's PM is Speaker Ryan's first foreign invitee

Indian Prime Minister Nerandra Modi will deliver a rare joint address to Congress on Wednesday after an invitation to the leader of the world’s largest democracy from House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Modi will wrap up a two-and-a-half-day visit to the nation’s capital – his fourth in two years – with the address, the first by a visiting head of state since Pope Francis last October and the first under Ryan’s leadership of the House.

By tradition, invitations to address a joint session of Congress come from the sitting House speaker, since the address is given in the larger House chamber where State of the Union speeches are delivered.

This year, a Ryan spokesman told AMI Newswire that Modi was invited after the prime minister’s visit was announced by the congressional India caucus. Modi’s remarks themselves have been kept under wraps.

“As the leader of the world’s largest democracy, Speaker Ryan felt strongly he should be welcomed to speak,” the spokesman said. “We have not seen an advanced copy of his remarks, but trust he will share his thoughts on ways to strengthen the ties between our two nations.”

After Modi’s remarks, Ryan will host a luncheon for the prime minister, after which Modi will attend a reception by the India caucus before leaving late Wednesday for a planned visit with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Modi, 65, took office in May 2014 and has focused his administration on a variety of reforms, one of which is to improve his country’s relationships with allies. He arrived in Washington on Monday and paid an initial visit to Arlington National Cemetery.

On Tuesday, Modi met for the seventh time with President Barack Obama in a two-hour White House meeting that included climate change, energy policy, terrorism and economic growth. Modi also met with Vice-President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

After the Obama-Modi meeting, the two men addressed the press. Modi said he supported the enactment this year of the climate change agreement reached in Paris last December that would force countries to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Obama said he supported India’s effort to join the international Nuclear Suppliers Group, a multinational organization aimed at controlling the proliferation of nuclear materials but which would allow India greater ease in buying and selling arms and technology with the U.S.

China has opposed India’s membership in the NSG, but Obama has said India needs certain technology for its safety and prosperity.