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MODI TALKS

Five takeaways from a rare, epically long Narendra Modi interview

By Madhura Karnik

With just about a month to go for Narendra Modi to complete one year in power, a lot of questions have been raised about what his government has achieved so far.

Modi was seen as the leader who would miraculously turnaround India’s ailing economy, and improve the overall investment cycle. In a rare interview to the Hindustan Times newspaper, the Indian prime minister underscored how his government improved the economy, worked for the poor—and has been an overall success so far.

Modi did not stop at that one tweet. He also praised the interviewer, Sanjoy Narayan, editor-in-chief at Hindustan Times.

Here are the key takeaways from his interview.

On economic growth

“We have left behind countries like China in terms of our GDP (gross domestic product) growth. We have left behind the US in terms of steel production. The current account deficit has come down. Global institutions like the IMF (International Monetary Fund), OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and others are predicting even better growth potential in the coming months and years,” he said.

“It was even being said that the letter ‘I’ might have to be dropped from BRICS (the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Now, the faith has been restored—there is pace in governance, economic progress and global pride. You can see this,” he added.

On working for the poor

In slight contradiction to his pro-business agenda, Modi said his government is working for the common man.

“Our priority is the poor of the country,” he said.

He also said that his job is to run a policy-driven government.

“Red tape nahin hona chahiye; Ab red tape nahin hona chahiye matlab Mukesh Ambani ke liye red tape na ho aur ek common man ke liye red tape ho, waisa nahin chal sakta,” he said in Hindi. His statement means: Red tape should not be there, does not mean it should not be there for Mukesh Ambani, but be there for a common man; that won’t do.

On multiple foreign trips

Since Modi took charge, he has visited at least 11 countries, and will be travelling to France, Germany and Canada next week. He said he likes to visit more than one country during his international tours.

“I’m from Ahmedabad where we have a saying, ‘single-fare, double journey’,” he said.

“Canada is rich in hydrocarbons and other natural resources. An Indian prime minister would be visiting Canada after a long time,” he added.

“France and Germany have the manufacturing and skill base which is useful to us. France is our dependable strategic partner. In Germany, I am attending the prestigious Hannover Fair where India will be a partner country. I expect my visit to be helpful in advancing our Make in India initiative. The free trade agreement discussions are ongoing and would be reflected in my meetings,” he said.

On inflation

“When we took charge, prices were already sky-rocketing. To make matters worse, there was a delay in the monsoon. Even then, we tried our best and succeeded in bringing down inflation,” Modi said.

The retail inflation in India touched 5.37% in February, higher that 5.19% in the previous month.

“While we were witnessing a little relief on this front, the unseasonal rains have given another unfortunate jolt to agriculture. It is, of course, a matter of great concern to us in the government,” he added.

On Pakistan and China

For his swearing-in ceremony, Modi had invited Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

“Peace can only thrive when the climate is right. We remain open to bilateral dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues in an environment free from terrorism and violence. The Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration have to be the basis for going forward,” he said.

“The visit of President Xi to India has certainly given the relationship a new level of energy. I look forward to going to China fairly soon to further build our relationship. In so far as the border is concerned, the most important point right now is that peace and tranquillity must not be disturbed. That would create conditions for us to arrive at a mutually-acceptable solution,” he said.