imgeset”” alt=””imgeset”” />Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an interview with Times Now has shared his views on a range of issues. Here are edited excerpts of the Prime Minister’s interviewwith Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief, Times Now which was telecast on June 27, 2016.
ARNAB: Mr. Modi, I want to start now on the issue of foreign policy. In the area of foreign policy, you have taken great personal interest. The amount of personal interest you have shown in foreign policy, probably none of the previous Prime Ministers showed the same kind of interest. Your approach is pro active. What I find interesting about your foreign policy is that you have balanced different powers and different interests. On the one side, your relationship with US, you made sure that India enters the Missile Control Technology Regime with them. A week before that you also signed the historic Chabahar Port Agreement with Iran. So, you have balanced very diverse forces. My question to you over this is that, is it easy to do that as an Indian Prime Minister? Secondly, on the issue of the NSG, you staked a lot of personal interest, personal push, you lobbied actively. How close are we to getting the NSG seat?
PM MODI: Firstly, about foreign policy, you need to know what has strengthened our foreign policy. For 30 years, in our country, the government was unstable. For 30 years, party with a clear mandate wasn’t given the opportunity to form the government. The world measures the government of a nation on the basis of its condition in its own country, on how strong their word is in their own country. I am thankful to the people of this country, that after 30 years, they chose a government with absolute majority and this has had an impact on world politics. Countries and world leaders have changed their perspective towards India. This is the biggest benefit. Secondly, the world didn’t know me. The world wants to know who the head of the state is. If someone would want to know Modi through the eyes of the media, then he would be disillusioned on which Modi is the real Modi. If this happens, the country will be at a loss. Modi’s personality shouldn’t be a hindrance for the world to have faith in india. But for that unless I meet all those leaders and engage them them one to one, unless I speak to them frankly, they wouldn’t know about india’s head of state, so it was very important for me as I am not from a political family. I never had the opportunity to meet the world leaders earlier.
ARNAB: You were an unknown entity in foreign policy
PM MODI: More than foreign policy it was foreign relations. Yes, I was new to it. So for me, being pro active was mandatory. Thirdly, we work as a team. Foreign ministry, Prime Minister’s officer, commerce ministry, finance ministry, defense minister, everyone works as a team, not as separate pieces. The impact that is now visible, is not just because of Modi, it is because of the team. All teams work in a particular direction. That is why the impact is seen, earlier these teams were splintered. We have seen instances where the party would give a statement, the prime minister would say something else, party leaders would say something else. This disunity has had a negative impact. Thirdly, we also need to understand that earlier the world was bi polar. Foreign policy would be centered around two super powers. India was a little late in realizing that this bi polar situation was for namesake. Now the entire world, in changed circumstances, especially in 21st century, it is more interdependent and inter connected, earlier, the foreign policy was possible between governments, but today it is not possible just between governments. Government relations are important but increasing people to people contact is equally important. There’s been a shift in paradigm. Because I do not have any previous baggage, because I’ve had a clean slate, I write everything from beginning and that has a benefit. Today we are building relations with countries across the world. The amount of respect with which I engage Saudi Arabia, I engage Iran with the same amount of respect. The amount of respect with which I speak to America, I speak to Russia with the same amount of respect. So we need to understand this. We also need to understand that we shouldn’t consider smaller countries insignificant. I abide by this principle…….
You must have seen that I made a forum for the pacific island nations. We have had two meetings. I went there once and they came here once. These are small countries with a population of about 10 lakh or 20 lakh. But these small island nations are most affected by global warming. When India took up the international solar mission and 122 nations joined it, the island nations benefitted the most out of it. They are 50 in number now. A group of 50 nations, feels secured with this vision of India. If we try to understand this change, then we would realize that in the world, a few days back, I was sitting with the officers of our foreign services, so as we got talking, in a very poetic way I told them that there was a time when we used to sit by the sea and count the waves, but the time has now changed, we are done counting waves, now it’s time for us to steer ourselves, ride the waves and decide on our direction, destination and speed
ARNAB: That is apparent. You have a very aggressive foreign policy. But my second question was, you put so much effort for NSG membership. My question was, how close are we to NSG membership and were you disappointed that we did not make it at the very end because of China’s opposition?
PM MODI: Look the first thing is that India has been continuously making these efforts, no matter which government was in office. Be it the membership of the UN Security Council or the SCO membership or MTCR membership or NSG membership. Every government has made an effort. It’s not that only this government is trying, it’s in continuity. But it’s during our tenure that we achieved SCO membership, we also got the MTCR membership. I have full faith that now we have begun a coordinated effort for the NSG membership too. The process has begun on a positive note. Everything has rules and will work accordingly and move forward
ARNAB: Is it the problem of mindset with China? There have been 13 engagements at various levels between the Narendra Modi government and the Chinese government. The latest engagement was when you went to Tashkent. You spent some time with the Chinese President Xi Jinping. Yet it was seen that in the case of Masood Azhar, China blocked India’s UN bid to ban him. Now they have stalled India’s NSG bid. Why is China repeatedly blocking us Mr Prime Minister despite your personal proactive measures and your government’s outreach?
PM MODI: The first thing is that we have an ongoing dialogue with China and it should continue to happen. In foreign policy it’s not necessary to have similar views to have a conversation. Even when the views are contradictory, talks are the only way forward and problems should be resolved through dialogue. We don’t have one problem with China, we have a whole lot of problems pending with China. Slowly and steadily, an effort is on to address these issues through talks and make them less cumbersome. I can say that China has been cooperating with India to search for solutions. On some issues, it’s a question of principles for them. On some issues, it’s a question of principles for us. On some issues they differ with us and there are issues on which we differ with them. There are some basic differences. But the most important thing is that we can speak to China eye-to-eye and put forth India’s interests in the most unambiguous manner. We are a government that takes care of India’s interests. We don’t compromise on this. Three days ago I met the Chinese President. I told him clearly about India’s interests. They are a different country, we are a different country
ARNAB: Do you think you will be able to change their mindset on the issue of NSG membership?
PM MODI: See the foreign policy is not about changing mindsets. Foreign policy is about finding the common meeting points. Where do our interests converge and how much? We have to sit and talk with every country. It’s our ongoing effort
ARNAB: This statement that you just made is also apt in the context of America where you gave a speech in the U.S Congress. By the way Mr Prime Minister it was a fantastic speech
PM MODI: Thank you
ARNAB: There was a lot of humour. You were laughing and cracking jokes while you delivered the speech which was very unique. They also appreciated it. Was the speech impromptu?
PM MODI: I have a humourous side but these days humour can be a risky thing
ARNAB: Why do you say that?
PM MODI: In this era of 24/7 news channels, anybody can lift a small word and make a big issue out of it. But I will tell you the truth, the reason for the absence of humour in public life is this fear. I am myself scared . Earlier when I used to make speeches, I would make it so humourous but there would never be any issues
ARNAB: Have you become more conscious now?
PM MODI: I am not conscious. I am in fear, there is no humour left in public life because of this fear. Everyone is scared. I am in fear. My speeches used be humourous. I see it in Parliament, that humour is finished there too. It is a matter of concern. I will quote one proverb.
ARNAB: Yes, go ahead.
PM MODI: Even if you mention a proverb, they will connect it with something else and begin a conversation. The one who is saying the proverb does not know for what he is speaking.
ARNAB: But you should not lose your sense of humour Mr Prime Minister
PM MODI: But it is true that my trip to the United States of America, my speech in their Congress and the respect shown towards India created a lot of hype. Had it not been hyped so much, there would not have been so much criticism on the NSG issue. Government is being criticized not for any mishandling of the NSG issue but because we were so successful over there (in the USA)
ARNAB: Did China become conscious of your growing friendship with US?
PM MODI: I am talking about what’s happening here
ARNAB: But when you delivered that speech in context of America, you used a very interesting phrase. You said ‘We have to overcome the hesitations of history’. My Hindi is not that good. Like hesitations of history. But my question to you is Mr Prime Minister, how close can we get to America because many Indians believe that America is still supporting Pakistan, giving them military assistance. How close can we get? At what point do we stop before we are seen like an American ally? What is your own world view on that?
PM MODI: I would especially like to appeal to my country’s media that we should stop looking at everything in India from the prism of Pakistan. India is an independent country. It is a country of 125 crore people. Whenever it approaches any country, it will only be concerned about its own interests. It has been our biggest shortcoming and mistake that we have been tagging ourselves with another country and trying to do things. We are an independent country, we have our own policies and future. We have to think about the future of our 125 crore people. There should be no compromise on our interests. We have relations with America in the context of these fundamental points
ARNAB: How close can we get to them?
PM MODI: There has been warmth in our relationship. You must have seen the editorials in American newspapers after my visit to that country. One point mentioned in those editorials was that the success of Obama’s foreign policy has been the warm relationship with India. This has been said
ARNAB: What you are saying Modiji is that we can be close to America but we need not be an ally or seen to be an ally?
PM MODI: The first thing is that we no longer live in a bipolar world. The world is interconnected and interdependent. You will have to connect with everybody at the same time. Even if there are two opposing countries, they will have to be friends. Now the times have changed
ARNAB: Mr Modi, on 8th May 2014, I had the opportunity to interview you, the interview took place in Ahmedabad, I think one last phase of elections was left. We were discussing the issue of Pakistan. You have had an uncompromising approach towards Pakistan. Two days back, Lashkar E Toiba killed 8 CRPF jawans in an attack. In the 8th May interview, you put forth a very interesting phrase, you said ‘Can talks be heard amidst the noise of bombs, guns and pistols?’ This is how you had phrased it. Do you believe we have been too generous towards Pakistan? Do you believe we have been too generous towards Pakistan?
PM MODI: There are two things. One – India has always wanted friendly ties with its neighbours, there can be no debate around it. We want to live in harmony and peace. And I have said it repeatedly, that India has to fight poverty, Pakistan too has to fight poverty, why don’t we come together to fight poverty? I said this before elections and during election campaigns. Also I had invited leaders of SAARC nations to my swearing in ceremony and they had attended it as well. So there has been no change in our intent, our thoughts and our current behaviour. Number two – those who have to work from the table, will work from the table and those who have to work at the border, will work at border with full strength. Each one will fulfill the responsibility entrusted to them. And our jawans are fulfilling their responsibilities. It’s true that pressure on terrorists has increased, their schemes are proving unsuccessful. The intent with which they move forward are foiled and they have to face major challenges. It is because of this disappointment that such incidents are taking place and our jawans are risking their lives and protecting the country. We are very proud of our Jawans
ARNAB: When your foreign policy is studied, observers analyze what’s happening and what’s not happening. If you give me the opportunity, I want to do a bit of analyses. There was a terrific pace of engagement with Pakistan between October, November and December. On 30th November, you met Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines (of UN Climate Summit in Paris). Both of you were seated on a sofa, talking to each other. A lot of people were speculating the contents of your conversation. This was on the sidelines of Climate Summit. After that, all of a sudden within seven days there were NSA level talks and Ajit Doval spoke to Nasir Janjua in Bangkok. And again after that you went to Russia via Afghanistan, you made an unexpected visit to Nawaz Sharif in Lahore. It was a personal trip but it still had some level of importance. Eight days later, Pakistani terrorists attacked Pathankot. Can you tell our viewers whether Pakistan was proactively responding in the months of October, November and December? Did the Pathankot terror attack change the situation? Is it true that Pakistan was making a lot of movement in those three months?
PM MODI: Look there are different types of forces operating in Pakistan. But the government only engages with a democratically elected system. Our effort for that engagement is continuing. But our supreme objective is peace. Our supreme objective is to protect India’s interests. We keep making effort toward that objective and sometimes our efforts are successful. As far as meetings and talks are concerned, we signalled right from the day I took oath and sent invitations for the oath taking ceremony, that we seek friendly relations but without compromising on our interests. And that is why I have said that my country’s soldiers have full freedom to answer back in whatever manner they have to and they will keep doing that
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister what is the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ that you would draw when it comes to Pakistan. There is some confusion surrounding this subject. I would like you to give an elaborate reply. In 2014, it was believed that if talks are being held, then they should be held between two countries and not with Hurriyat. It should be between the government of India and the government of Pakistan. The other ‘Lakshman Rekha’ is that you must act on 26/11. There’s been no forward movement so far. The third thing is about forward movement on the Pathankot attack case. So what is the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ now and if Pakistan remains within those bounds, so talks can happen at the political level or at any other level?
PM MODI: The first thing is that with Pakistan, to whom do we talk to decide about the ‘Lakshman Rekha’. Will it be with the elected government or with other actors? That is why India will have to be on alert all the time. India will have to be alert every moment. There can never be any laxity in this. But there is an outcome due to my continuous efforts like my visit to Lahore and my invitation to the Pakistani Prime Minister to come to India. Now I don’t have to explain to the world about India’s position. The world is unanimously appreciating India’s position. And the world is seeing that Pakistan is finding it difficult to respond. If we had become an obstacle, then we would have had to explain to the world that we are not that obstacle. Now we don’t have to explain to the world. The world knows our intentions. Like on the issue of terrorism, the world never bought India’s theory on terrorism. They would sometime dismiss it by saying that it’s your law and order problem. Today the world has to accept what India has been saying about terrorism. India’s dialogue on terrorism, the losses India has suffered due to terrorism, the losses suffered by humanity, the world is now acknowledging that. So I believe we have to take this process forward.”