ARNAB: You were an unknown entity in foreign policy
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?
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?
ARNAB: Do you think you will be able to change their mindset on the issue of NSG membership?
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
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?
ARNAB: Why do you say that?
ARNAB: Have you become more conscious now?
ARNAB: Yes, go ahead.
ARNAB: But you should not lose your sense of humour Mr Prime Minister
ARNAB: Did China become conscious of your growing friendship with US?
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?
ARNAB: How close can we get to them?
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?
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?
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?
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?
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister I now want to move to questions on the economy. In the past two years you have started many schemes. If we look at the theme of Jan Dhan Yojna for financial inclusion, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna for crop insurance, Swach Bharat, Skill India, Make In India. If we see the theme running through these schemes, is your social agenda at the core of your personal economic philosophy, social transformation? Is the social agenda at the core of your economic philosophy as the Prime Minister?
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister if I could interrupt you on this. On the one hand is the people’s expectations and on the other is your vision. Many programs that you have mentioned, you can’t put a calendar date to it but they don’t have an immediate impact. They maybe able to show results in 3, 4, 5 maybe beyond 5 years. Now there are challenges in that. Mr Prime Minister, you are aware more than anyone else that people want immediate results. Now you spoke of job creation. The first thing, as an achievement you have managed to grow the economy at 7.5 per cent when the global economic climate is very bleak. You have spoken about it as well. You have met fiscal deficit targets, FDI inflows have increased but people are saying that job opportunities are not increasing. You have spoken about infrastructure but the current rate of unemployment. Mr Prime Minister, the latest Labour Bureau figures, is it a source of concern for you as the Prime Minister?
ARNAB: So is your focus on entrepreneurship?
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister, questions are also being raised on food inflation which has still not decreased. The expectation was that the food inflation would decline. The people had put their hopes on the Prime Minister that you will bring down prices. This not only has a political impact but also has a social impact. Over the past two weeks, there were reports that in some places the price of Arhar dal had touched 150 rupees and 200 rupees for other pulses. The price of tomatoes was also rising. Is this only seasonal because the food inflation is increasing at 7.5 per cent year on year. Global oil prices have fallen. Do you think this creates perception issues for your government?
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister what is your view about the controversy around the exit of Raghuram Rajan as the RBI Governor? A lot has been spoken about this. There was commentary that it may effect India’s image, perception as a global economy. What’s your own view of the controversy around the exit of Raghuram Rajan?
ARNAB: Why so?
ARNAB: Prime Minister Modi, there’s a question related to this. During your speech at the Executive you used seven words begining with letter ‘S’– ‘Sevabhaav’ (service), ‘Santulan’ (balance), ‘Sanyam’ (restraint), ‘Samvaad’ (dialogue), ‘Samanvay’ (coordination), ‘Sakaratmak’ (positivity) and ‘Samvedna’ (sensitivity). I will ask the question in context with Raghuram Rajan because you used these words in the speech at National Executive Meet speech on June 14 in Allahabad. You said, ‘Our party leaders and party workers should use these qualities in their daily dealings and behaviour.’ Prime Minister, in Raghuram Rajan’s context, your Rajya Sabha MP has made many comments. Later he made critical remarks against senior bureaucrats. My question is, do you think it is right? When we talk about ‘Sanyam’ (restraint) and ‘Santulan’ (balance), is it correct?
ARNAB: That’s a very clear message.
ARNAB: And Mr Prime Minister, if I may say so, between May 8 and now, you are speaking as straight as you did before you took over as Prime Minister. I think that answer takes me to the next subject. Mr Prime Minister, the issue is that of Black Money. In a very interersting way you said, prices should not be looked at from the point of percepetion, equally, Mr Prime Minister it can be said said that an issue like Black Money should not be looked at in terms of perception, but it is perception forming. There are political debates on this. Experts say that the Black Money economy has shrunk, 10-15% economy has shrunk through land dealings and other things. You have passed the Black Money Bill, you have made taxation more transparent, you have started information sharing with other countries, you have taken steps, but Prime Minister Modi, people still expect that a Rs 25 lakh crores will be brought back and put into their bank accounts. How will you address that expectation? The hope that people have taking Black Money, how will you address it?
ARNAB: And you also said on 17 February 2015 on this issue, that the then Law Minister is only offering lip service
ARNAB: When the opposition raises the Rs 15 lakh issue.
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister, there has been no major financial corruption or scam in your tenure in the last two years. Perception is again, what people say is because you keep a very tight control on the reins of Government but the question is there are people, who are wilful defaulters, the economic offenders who take a lot of money from the country or commit economic offences in the country, go overseas and use rules and use lawyers, and they don’t come back to India. And people are asking now, is the Narendra Modi Govt determined to take these cases of wilful defaulters and economic offenders to their logical conclusion.
ARNAB: Does it worry you, that people have misued the law?
ARNAB: Mr. Modi, there have been several corruption cases about the previous government, which have now come out. There is AgustaWestland, many defense scams and defense transactions are now being analyzed seriously. The cases which were quoted in the CAG reports but were ignored are now coming in the forefront. This question is important because this isn’t just about financial corruption but these questions have direct implications on the national security of the country. Do you think, when they say that this is a political witch hunt by Narendra Modi Sarkar, do you think all of these cases would have been possible without political patronage?
ARNAB: Prime Minister, talking about your speech in the US Congress, and the humour that you displayed. I felt some of it was impromptu. But the Americans were able to relate to what you said, I don’t remember the exact words, you said, I am informed that the working of the US Congress is harmonious. And then there was a pause and people were laughing. Then you said, ‘I am told’ – You emphasized and said ‘I am told that you are well known for your bipartisanship.’ Then the applause was more. And then you said, ‘You are not alone. Time and again I have witnessed a similar spirit in the Indian Parliament.’ You spoke about a serious topic in a interesting manner. You referred to the Upper House. There was a lot of response on that too. Your humour was really appreciated and I think it was a wonderful moment when you were speaking. But, Mr. Prime Minister, when you look back at the parliament, this question comes to many people’s minds, has Prime Minister Narendra Modi being held back from achieving his own objectives because of the non-stop parliamentary logjam. How much has this affected his moving towards his own targets? If you critically analyze this situation, do you feel your government could have been more consultative or do you feel the blame is entirely with the Opposition?
ARNAB: Congress is a very experienced and old party
ARNAB: Prime Minister Modi, do you think the GST bill which has been stuck for over one and half years, it is a path-breaking economic reform. It unifies the country. Recently you met Ms Jayalalithaa after she was sworn in as the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee has extended her support for GST and Congress allies at the state level are supporting the GST bill. Do you feel optimistic that GST bill will be passed in the next session of the Parliament?
ARNAB: The reason…you had tried
ARNAB: You had invited former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi here at the Race Course Road
ARNAB: Still? The word you used ‘ego issue’, why has it become an ego issue? And people would want to know why is the Prime Minister unable to end this?
ARNAB: You spoke of Uttar Pradesh. Mr Prime Minister, elections will be held in Uttar Pradesh in 6,7,8 months. The focus of entire nation will be on it. You are the MP from Varanasi. But some comments are made by BJP, some say Sangh Parivar, some independent groups, communal colour is added to it and not just from one party but from other parties as well. Mr Prime Minister are you going to be able to keep development as the sole agenda? The main issue in the Uttar Pradesh polls should be that of development, it shouldn’t get capsized, the focus shouldn’t be elsewhere. Are you confident that communal agenda will not overpower development?
ARNAB: So the hot heads who make extreme comments, is there a necessity to control them? So that there is no politics in the name of religion
ARNAB: But they keep making such comments
ARNAB: We don’t make them heroes, we make them villains.
ARNAB: Self styled spokesmen
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister, let’s talk in 2016 of the 2017 elections. After Delhi, then Bihar, then Assam, West Bengal. After that we will talk about Punjab. Before we finish talking about Punjab, we will talk about Uttar Pradesh. Then there is the Gujarat state election. Don’t you think that this country is permanently stuck in an electoral cycle? The focus constantly and I want you to reflect on this issue, the focus is on party politics, polarising issues, not on governance. We are a country, if we say, we are constantly in a political campaign mode. Is this a good thing? Should we break away from it? And what is your view on it?
ARNAB: Was that leader from your party?
ARNAB: Can there be a timebound resolution in this?
ARNAB: Are you willing to take the lead in building that consensus?
ARNAB: I think it is an interesting idea of simultaneous elections. Though state parties, regional parties may feel that it will effect them badly. That the national parties like the BJP will gain
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister how are you keeping your schedule nowadays? I mean you keep a terrifying pace. The number of meetings you hold, people say your officers find it hard to keep up
ARNAB: Before I come to my last question Mr Prime Minister, one issue that I want to come to is the farmers’ crisis. As you are well aware, there has been a crisis in this country, you referred to it. In that speech to your MPs, about which I asked you earlier as well, on 20th May in the Central Hall of Parliament you said that ‘this government is not for myself, this government is for the poor, we must do something for them.’ The farmers’ crisis Mr Prime Minster is a reality. I am glad that in this interview you have not avoided the reality, you’ve faced it, you’ve talked about it. We have linked our entire future to the monsoons. How do we overcome this from becoming an annual crisis in this country?
ARNAB: Do you think that the farmers’ crisis will be resolved, the question I asked, that it won’t be an annual affair, the dependence on monsoons will go down?
ARNAB: Mr Prime Minister now I have two questions for you.
ARNAB: I’ll club these two (questions) together. You’re also enjoying it and I am glad you’re speaking Mr Prime Minister because there is so much ground to cover and I think viewers would like to hear your view, sir. Actually there are three, if you allow me. They’re short questions. First is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, how much is politics playing on your mind? In the sense that every Prime Minister, especially someone who is as forthright as you, looks at the next big challenge. Is 2019 anywhere in your mind?
ARNAB: This was also a warning in a way.
ARNAB: Mister Prime Minister, do some crystal ball gazing for the next three years. For the next three years, to use the cricketing analogy, how do you find your run rate so far and will you have to score at a higher run rate in the next three years to achieve your targets?
ARNAB: Final question to you Mr Prime Minister, what motivates you the most? First of all as I said, will you be able to keep this pace? What motivates you the most and also if you can share with our viewers honestly what is your one greatest source of worry?
ARNAB: Prime Minister Narendra Modi it has been a privilege. I am grateful for this interview.
ARNAB: And thank you on behalf of all our viewers that you spoke frankly. The program is Frankly Speaking and I am thankful to you that you were so frank.
ARNAB: Please do not think like that. Thank you very much