Once Shunned, Indian Prime Minister Welcomed to Hill

Narendra Modi will be on Capitol Hill meeting privately with top House leaders Tuesday, but Congress has not always been so inviting to the Indian prime minister.

Modi's much-heralded meeting with the leadership is a noted change from last year, when congressional Republicans scrambled to distance themselves from the controversial Indian official—and from years earlier, when some in the House wanted to formally condemn him.

At that time, Modi was a much more controversial figure. As the chief minister of India's Gujarat region (the equivalent of a governor), Modi had been denied entry to the U.S. in 2005 for his allegedly passive response to violent sectarian riots in 2002 that claimed some 1,000 lives, mostly of Muslims. Members of the House had introduced a resolution condemning him for "condoning or inciting bigotry and intolerance."

Last year, Modi secured the nomination as the prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party, though he was considered a long shot. Questions lingered about whether he would be allowed in the U.S. if he won.

But now, Modi is the duly elected leader of the largest democracy in the world, dining with President Obama and being hailed by GOP Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas as "the next Ronald Reagan for the world."

Even GOP Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, who was behind the earlier resolution to condemn Modi, is easing his opposition.

Modi will meet Tuesday morning with House Speaker John Boehner, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and other House leaders.

McMorris Rodgers has had her own ups and downs with Modi. In March 2013, she and a few colleagues traveled to India and met with Modi. Later in the year, literature circulated by an Illinois-based group associated with Modi publicized an event with McMorris Rodgers during which Modi would supposedly address the House Republican Conference live via satellite.

But there was a problem: There have been allegations that the event was a fake. McMorris Rodgers's office said it sent a cease-and-desist letter to Shalli Kumar, a founder of the National Indian American Public Policy Institute, the organization publicizing the meeting.

McMorris Rodgers's office claimed the organization had used logos for the House and the House Republican Conference without permission to concoct its cosponsorship of an event called "India Day on Capitol Hill." The House Administration Committee was consulted, and an email imploring Kumar to stop using the insignias was sent, according to McMorris Rodgers spokesman Nate Hodson.

"The cease-and-desist letter was sent to stop the unauthorized use of the House seal, member photos, and office titles for an event which was not organized or approved by the congresswoman or the House Republican Conference," Hodson said.

Kumar, however, denied this. "[Modi] was invited, and there were some logistics problems and it didn't take place," he said in a phone interview. "There is no cease-and-desist letter that ever came about."

Asked about the meeting at the time, sources close to McMorris Rodgers told Foreign Policy magazine that she and Modi "don't have a relationship."

Not so these days.

"The congresswoman looks forward to welcoming the prime minister to the Capitol," Hodson said.