Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave an exclusive interview to TASS First Deputy Director-General Mikhail Gusman on the eve of his state visit to Russia. This is his first interview with Russian media.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, many thanks to you for giving us a chance to meet you prior to your visit to Russia. This must be your first official visit to Russia as Prime Minister but you have been there before. What are your feelings right now? What do you expect from this trip?
A: First of all, I greet the Russian citizens from my heart, because Russia is India’s unwavering friend. Russian citizens too maintained unwavering relations with India. And politically apart, the Russian citizens have shown considerable interest in the Indian traditions and India’s culture. And it makes our relationship stronger. I am going on a state visit for the first time, but I have been meeting President Putin frequently. In a way, mine and President Putin’s political journey has moved identically. He took over in 2000, I took over in 2001. And in 2001, I visited as member of the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s delegation, in capacity of a chief minister. So that was my first meeting. When I go to Russia, there is a thought in my mind that I have delayed the visit a bit. Secondly, I am hesitating a bit. But I am filled with enthusiasm that I’m going to a friend’s house. And visit a friend, the feeling of oneness, the emotions, I am feeling it. The relations between India and Russia are linked together through the water, land and sky. Our defense source, defense power, in all these Russia is associated with us for all those years. Similarly, in the global environment, in times of crisis, where you need a friend, Russia has always stood with us. We never had to wait to know what Russia will do with us in this regard. We remain confident that we are doing this, Russia will do it with us. So this in itself, an atmosphere of trust continues between the two countries. And in this sense, our relationship, in one way is a new level of strategic partnership, which is taking us in that direction.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, you told us in great detail how close the relationship between our two countries is. We have historic ties continuing over the years. What do you think of the dynamics of this relationship today? You have met President Putin several times. What kind of personal relationship do you have with him?
A: You said while greeting me that “you are coming to Russia when it is very cold there; it is less cold in Delhi; you must come with warm clothing.” This is what you suggested to me. And my spontaneous answer was that in the love of Russian citizens there is warmth, it will provide a lot of warmth in the minus temperature, this is the relationship we share.
It is true that I have made a good introduction with President Putin. The world knows him as a strong leader. He is a decisive person. And the best thing is that he knows how to maintain relations. He has a special strength to sacrifice for the relations. It is rarely found. And therefore, for him to sacrifice, to maintain relations are his special strength. Due to this an atmosphere of trust is born immediately with any country and with any leader. Between me and President Putin, trust is a very big strength, confidence is a very big strength. Secondly it is openness. There are those who think something, but say something else. This I have not experienced with President Putin. What he thinks, he says in clear words. You might like it or not like it, he is not tense about it. He explains with a feeling of oneness and in a friendly manner. It is a fact that he has provided excellent leadership to Russia over the years. Provided leadership, brought it out of economic crisis and filled strength in Russia after its break down. Whenever there is a crisis in the world, Russia comes up with its own ideas with its strength. All this is because of the leadership of President Putin. India always remembers Russia as a friend. But President Putin has filled new energy in this relationship, filled new enthusiasm and I see him as a friend.
Q: The Russian-Indian ties have a long and rich history. Relations between our countries have never been overshadowed by wars or conflicts. How do you see the dynamics of relations between our countries?
A: Indeed, ours is a relationship with strong and deep roots in history. Russian merchant Afanasy Nikitin visited India in 1469; Indian merchants from Gujarat came to Astrakhan and established trade relations and a vibrant Indian community since 1615; Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich in 1646 itself had sent emissaries to the then Emperor of India Shah Jahan seeking to establish diplomatic relations between India and Russia.
Russia was probably one of the first European countries to have introduced Indology studies. There has been tremendous interest in each other between people of our two countries through centuries. Indian films have been very popular in Russia; Russian literature has found resonance in India. So, our connections run deep and long.
At a personal level, my first international agreement as Chief Minister of Gujarat was with Astrakhan.
Since India’s Independence in 1947, India and Russia have formed a genuinely close strategic partnership, characterized by unmatched mutual trust and confidence, and solidarity with each other. Russian assistance has helped India’s industrialization and progress in many areas, including space.
Russia provided defense equipment to India and international support when few were willing to hold our hands. Indians will never forget the Russian support that we got when we needed it the most.
The world has gone through enormous political and economic, technological transformation since the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union.
However, through these turbulent times, our relationship has remained on a steady course of progress. A lot of credit goes to President Putin and Indian leaders over the past two decades.
I am pleased to see where our relationship is today. Russia was the first country with which we concluded a formal agreement on strategic partnership, which has since been elevated to the level of ‘special and privileged’ strategic partnership in recognition of our multifaceted bilateral engagement. I see positive signs of further growth owing to complementarities of both the countries. The strengths of Russia in science and technology, military technology and nuclear energy to name a few, complement the large market of India, expanding economy and demand of its young population. This provides us with the confidence that we can take forward our existing dynamic partnership.
Q: The dynamic development of the entire range of bilateral relations has lent them a trait of comprehensive strategic partnership. Russia and India have made tangible progress in advancing cooperation in a wide variety of spheres. In what area of our bilateral cooperation the achieved progress is the greatest and where certain potential remains untapped?
A: Our relations with Russia have been unique, covering almost every field of human endeavour. We have excellent understanding at the political level. We have robust partnership in the field of defence, nuclear energy, science and technology and other areas. Russia has been the largest supplier of military equipment to India and would remain so.
Energy is a sector where we can do a lot more. Russia is one of the world’s top sources for hydrocarbon resources and India is one of the world’s largest importers. We have had significant investments in this sector. Our hydrocarbon companies have been in the Russian market for the past two decades through investments in Sakhalin, and are presently acquiring stakes in Vankor, TassYuryakh and LNG projects.
India’s global re-engagement in nuclear energy has begun with Russia. Energy security is critical to India’s economic development and Russia is a key partner in this area. Nuclear energy is an important component of our energy security strategy. Russia is currently our leading international partner. Our cooperation with Russia in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy is a cornerstone of our strategic partnership. I am glad that the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project has become operational, and is set to expand. I believe our cooperation in the area of nuclear energy will continue to grow. After Kudankulam, we are finalizing a second site for Russian-designed reactors in India. We have outlined an ambitious vision for nuclear energy and construction of at least 12 reactors, which will have the highest safety standards in the world. As two countries possessing advanced nuclear technology, we are interested in taking forward this cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
In space, India’s first satellite Aryabhatta was launched by Russia in 1975 and the first space travel by an Indian cosmonaut aboard a Russian spacecraft took place in 1984. Cooperation in pharmaceuticals has seen mutually beneficial investments and reliable supply of medicines at international quality while at affordable prices.
There is potential to further strengthen our relations in the field of trade and investments. Our bilateral trade, though growing, has not achieved its full potential. We have committed to increase this to $30 billion by 2025. Similarly we are committed to increase our investments to $15 billion each by 2025.
In addition to bringing our businesses and CEOs together, we are also in the process of launching negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with Eurasian Economic Union. We are establishing a more direct trade route through the International North South Transit Corridor that will drastically reduce cost and time for transporting goods between India and Russia. And, we have recently notified a Diamond Trading Centre in India that will enable Russia uncut diamonds to be directly routed to India for processing rather than through third countries.
Q: Military-technical cooperation between Russia and India has been underway for more than half a century now and its scale is traditionally wide. What is your vision of the results of cooperation in that sphere and its outlook?
A: Russia has been India’s foremost defense partner through decades, accounting for a majority of our defense equipment. We value Russian support during the era when not many doors were open to us. Even in the current environment, and despite India’s improved access to the world market, Russia remains our principal partner. The aircraft carrier ‘INS Vikramaditya’, Sukhoi fighter jets and Brahmos cruise missiles are great symbol of our defence cooperation.
They are the result of unwavering mutual trust and confidence and reflect the strength of our strategic partnership.
Our defense ties have been transformed from a buyer-seller relationship to one involving joint research, development and production of advanced systems such as the Brahmos missile system in India as well as licensed production in India of Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft and T-90 tanks. As part of our enhanced military cooperation, joint military exercises are being conducted by the Armed Forces of both the countries regularly. We are also working together for joint manufacture of defense equipment and components in India under the Make in India initiative.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, you’ve been heading the government of India over a year. You have done a great deal and have intentions to do a lot more. You have carried out many reforms and are planning more. What future do you see for India? What are the main goals? What else do you want to do?
A: I am the first Prime Minister who for 14 years had the opportunity to work as a Chief Minister. And due to this I understand well the utility of States in India, their importance, the strength of federal structure in letter and spirit. And so my first idea in governance is that this country can not stand on one pillar. Each state is a strong pillar in itself and that is the country’s biggest strength. And therefore I have put stress on the “Team India” concept. We have put great emphasis on Cooperative Federalism, Cooperative competitive Federalism which shall show good results in near future. Secondly, every country has this goal, happiness of countrymen, satisfaction of countrymen. How will the life of our countrymen change? How to bring improvement in quality of life? If they are imparted education then everyone should get it. Education of high standard must be imparted. Qualitative changes must come in progressive education. Health care facilities must be facilitated to all but qualitative changes are required. Good heath care facilities must be made available. All the general humanitarian requirements must be met. A citizen has his own dreams and oppotunities must be provided to fulfill those dreams. And it must be the responsibility of the state government to provide the opportunities. Then the citizen starts moving on his own.
So our focus must be to provide the opportunities. Skill development and human resource development is my main goal. “Make in India” – creation of a manufacturing hub is my effort. Skill development shall provide opportunities to our youth, so that each citizen will become a part of the economy. That will give a new boost to the economy. I am putting efforts in this direction. We have to upgrade the infrastructure. I mean not only the roads. I do not want to limit it to highways. I want to travel on I-ways which shall have an information base. I am not only working towards a Water Grid but also for a Gas Grid, Digital Network and dream of Digital India. And so from my past one and a half year’s experience, I can say that India has well achieved it. These days you must have observed that India is being seen in global ranking as an economic power. Today India is being considered as the largest economy in the world and it is the fastest moving economy. All the world’s rating agencies say that India is a bright spot. The development is very fast in India. It is regarded by the entire world. If the 21st century is the century of Asia, India’s obligation increases. As a democratic country, India has more responsibility. And we are fully aware. How can we play our role in the world by adding the two, the development in the form of a democratic country and human values? Our strength lies in how to work for humanity, democracy, helping the poorest countries, not as a silent spectator but as a global player.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, you know, Russia, India and the entire world is facing a great evil, terrorism. We see it everywhere. Now this Islamic State has taken over control of entire Syria. Many countries are fighting against it. India has also lost its citizens in terror attacks and has its own experience in combatting terrorism. How the world must fight against it, in your opinion? What counter-terrorism efforts Russia and India should take together?
A: First of all I convey my condolences for the innocent Russian citizens who lost their lives recently because of terrorist attack on a plane in Egypt. I extend condolences to the Russian citizens. India is a victim of terrorism for the last forty years. We have seen the fiercest of fierce forms of terrorism. And it remains a danger for the innocent civilians. Today it is slowly spreading throughout the world.
When we were suffering from terrorism, we used to say to the world that it has no boundaries. If it is here today, it can go anywhere tomorrow. But unfortunately the world was not ready to accept our point. It was not willing to understand. They thought that it is India’s problem. But we are sad about it that what we said has come true today. We are sad about it.
Terrorism is the enemy of humanity. Those who believe in humanity, all those powers must unite against terrorism. Humanity is not restricted within political boundaries. Political philosophy can not weigh humanity. Humanity must be weighed with the scale of humanity only. And all who believe in humanity, irrespective of any political consideration, must come together and only then they can fight it.
The United Nations was born after the two world wars. There were no wars, but fierce terrorism was killing the innocents. Wars were fought at the borders between the soldiers. In terrorism, armed people hunt for innocent citizens. It is ghastlier than the world wars. But it is very unfortunate that we all together could not explain terrorism in the United Nations. We could not define terrorism. Who is a terrorist and who will be considered as supporter of terrorists. Who will be considered aiding terrorism? What will be done with such countries? The United Nations is not able to show the courage even to consider it for discussion. Because some countries somewhere in the world are involved and are putting obstacles in it. The world will have to understand it.
As far as Syria is concerned, and West Asia as a whole, West Asia was moving towards prosperity. But we are seeing that prosperity does not provide contentment and happiness. That only wealth, money, property and strong power, provide peace and happiness – no that is not true. West Asia is seeing this. Therefore the human race must learn from this a lesson for their development; the lesson that we can not keep our society happy only through wealth and enrichment. A few more things are required, which are called values.
The other thing which we are seeing today is that everybody says that terrorism must end. But everybody’s priority is different, everyone is inclined differently. This situation gives strength to the terrorists. Secondly, none of the terrorist groups have their own factories for manufacturing weapons. It means that there are some countries which have weapons and provide them. Which is that route? Why is it not being blocked? The terrorists do not run any money printing machine. Where from the money flows the world over? Where from the strength comes for such big battles? Whether it is funding or communication technology, the governments of the countries of the world can play one or other role. But the outcome will come only when all the people of the world will put in a coordinated effort. Defeating somebody in sporadic incidents is not going to help. That is why humanitarian powers say this.
Secondly, some people have found a way of emotional blackmail in religion. All the people of the world, all societies, all communities and all religious leaders must, with one voice, delink terrorism from religion. Religion has nothing to do with terrorism, it must be clearly pronounced and spread continuously, so that some people who get support for emotional blackmailing and some children who go astray due to emotional reasons, can be prevented. And one thing more – these days some children are getting misled via social media and society must educate them. It must be conveyed to them by people whom they trust. If we continue preaching, they will not listen to us and it is not going to serve any purpose. The only thing that will matter is to talk to them through those on whom they rely. Such people will have to be found. The children have to be constatntly schooled by them. Only then can we save our future generations from the devastating crisis.
Q: Moscow and New Delhi have close or identical views on the majority of current international issues. For instance, our countries are advocates of a multi-polar world where the national interests of all countries and peoples are taken into account. What is your opinion of our cooperation on this issue?
A: A strong international partnership has been the hallmark of our relations. Russian support in international forums, including in the UN Security Council, through the decades is deeply valued in India. Today, our international cooperation has widened. We work together in a number of international forums, including BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (where Russian support helped in a decision on India’s full membership this year), G20 and East Asia Summit.
BRICS, which was launched by President Putin, is making a major contribution to international finance and trade, development finance, international terrorism, climate change, food security and sustainable development. BRICS can be an important voice in advancing a more equitable and inclusive global order. In both SCO and East Asia Summit, we can work together in advancing peace and prosperity in two major regions of the world, where we both have vital stakes.
Multipolarity is a global reality. India and Russia represent two faces of a multi-polar world. We want to work with Russia not just for our bilateral interests, but also for a peaceful, stable and sustainable world.
Q: Mr.Prime Minister, as far as I know, in September you turned 65 but you look much younger. Is this due to Yoga, which is getting more popular? And what advice would you like to give those Russians who practice Yoga? What should they do for its promotion in Russia? And I’ve also heard that President Putin has taken interest in Yoga, after you told him about it.
A: You have asked a very good question. First of all, through you, I want to express my sincere gratitute to all the countries of the world, the United Nations and all the citizens of the world, that when I made a proposal for Internationa Yoga Day in the UN, within 100 days almost all countries of the world endorsed it and in nearly 192 countries the International Yoga Day was celebrated and is a pleasure to me that in Russia at more than 200 locations, the International Yoga Day was celebrated and they say that more than 45,000 people publicly participated in it. This in itself is very important. It is true that Yoga originated in India, so I could say it belongs only to India, but it does not, it is the world’s wealth, the wealth of the human race, the world’s heritage. And every society in the world promoted or pursued it in its own way and therefore the present form of Yoga has changed a lot, it is very widespread and everybody has contributed in it. So I too, am grateful to all of you. After all, why is Yoga becoming popular? Why is the importance of Yoga growing? Yoga’s importance is gowing beacuse, you see, our biggest mistake was that when we discussed health, we addressed illness, we considered health as addressing illness. It is important that we address wellness. So, illness or wellness? Yoga takes us towards wellness. Today the world is going for Holistic health care and Yoga is the perfect science for it. Thirdly, the human life is fractured too. A human’s mind thinks something and his body does something else; the intellect contradicts it. The body, mind and intellect, they are in a fractured state; and we do not even know it. The mind, intellect and body, all three must work in synchronism. It can be achieved through Yoga. Yoga gives you inner strength. Yoga is not a physical exercise. Some people think that yoga is bending the body. Those working in the circus are very good at body bending and Russia is a global leader in circus. But that does not mean Yoga. Yoga is a subject associated with mind, intellect and soul and knowing this form of Yoga is very beneficial. I have also heard that these days President Putin is showing his interest towards Yoga and wherever I go in the world I discuss a lot on Yoga with the World leaders. You are right, I have been myself a Yoga practitioner and if I try to find some time out for myself, that is for Yoga and I am benefited.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, our program is titled “Formula of Power” and probably you will be in a best position than others to tell the real meaning of “Formula of Power”? What is your “Formula of Power”? How do you understand it?
A: Our country had also a spiritual thinking. God is conceived in our country. I always say JANTA JANARDHAN, this is form of God, and therefore I consider the power of people as my God. I consider humankind itself as my own Power. I believe people are the strength of my Country and therefore if there is any High Command for me, then it is my 1.25 billion countrymen. If there is any Power for the future of our nation, then it is my 1.25 billion countrymen and therefore my entire dedication, I treat them as Power. And the more I will live for them, the more they will live for the country and that is the real Power for me. In India, power is given a very negative meaning, therefore I am very careful. But I consider it as my JANTA JANARDHAN, power of 1.25 billion countrymen with 2.5 billion hands. If India has a million problems then we have a billion solutions too. I consider it as most important.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, the New Year will come in just a few days.It’s celebrated in Russia on grand scale and with greath enthusiasm and we are looking forward to it. What would you like to tell Russian people in New Year’s message?
A: I convey my best wishes to the citizens of Russia for the New Year. And when it comes in the form of Monkey you consider it a special significance, even I know this. Its very auspicious. I believe that Russia is continuing to play a global role, it will continue to play a bigger role. Russia’s power and strength willl be useful in the cause of world peace – this is my belief – and the Russian citizens will be connected with India in an unbreakable relationship. In the new year, let us make a resolution to work for a terror-free world, we should safeguard the natural resources, and to save them, we must try our best to fulfill our obligations as human beings. I will be once again be conveying my new year wishes to the Citizens of Russia in person, but today, via the media, I am conveying my best wishes all of you from my heart.