On the eve of his visit to Russia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave an exclusive interview to TASS First Deputy General Director Mikhail Gusman for TASS and Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to meet with you again. We meet with you literally a few hours before you fly to Vladivostok to the Eastern Economic Forum, to the Russian Far East. What do you expect from this forum? What are your expectations for going there?
Hello! First, I would like to thank you for coming to us from afar. Welcome to India! I would like to thank the Russian people through you and convey my warmest greetings, because the peoples of India and Russia in many respects feel close to each other.
Once I came to Russia for a bilateral summit, that evening we were shown a cultural program. All the speakers on stage were Russian, but I was completely shocked by how they portrayed India. The whole atmosphere on the stage was Indian: the speakers demonstrated Indian traditions, Indian clothes, Indian culture, and I felt how Russian people love India. Therefore, I sincerely thank the Russians and convey them my best wishes.
As for relations between India and Russia, I note that two years ago, at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, I visited St. Petersburg at an economic forum. And he invited me to this forum a year ago, and I received this invitation even before the elections, when their winner was not yet known (the general parliamentary elections in India were held in April-May of this year - TASS comment). But he confidently told me: "No, you come." Such trust, respect, love for a friend is very important in itself.
As for relations between India and Russia, I am sure that they are not limited only to relations between politicians or between the capitals - Delhi and Moscow. India is a huge and diverse country. In every country in the world, different regions have their own strengths. And if we want to develop relations, we must get acquainted with the whole country. I believe that if we do not get acquainted with the Russian Far East, we will not recognize Russia to the end. This is a very powerful region of Russia.
I remember the last time I came to St. Petersburg, I was able to talk with the governors of the Far Eastern regions for about half a day. A number of representatives from the Far East came to the Vibrant Gujarat international investment forum (Vibrant Gujarat, an international forum organized by the government of Gujarat - approx. TASS).
And I am ready to make efforts so that this Far Eastern forum will contribute to a new strengthening, new expansion and inclusiveness of economic relations between India and Russia. That is why I think this forum is very important.
But this forum is not limited to just meeting and exchanging points of view. We have been preparing for this forum for six months. A large delegation from the Far East came to us. The chief ministers of our states, ministers of the government, entrepreneurs came there, they saw this region with their own eyes. And now I'm going. I am sure that this visit will give a new direction, new energy, new speed to relations between the two countries.
Mr. Prime Minister, you mentioned your previous meetings with President Putin, including at the forum in St. Petersburg, you will meet in Vladivostok. How is your personal dialogue going, as they say that you have developed a personal relationship, as they say, a special chemistry. How would you rate this?
You see, over the past 20 years, relations between India and Russia have made great progress. But the greatest achievement is trust, which in itself is of very great importance. For the first time, I got the opportunity to meet with President Putin in 2001. Then I arrived in Moscow with the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Prime Minister of India in 1996, 1998-2004 - approx. TASS).
I was the chief minister of the state (Gujarat - approx. TASS), and this was our first meeting. But Putin did not at all make it clear that I am less significant, that I am from a small state or that I am a new person. He treated me as friendly as his own. As a result, the doors of friendship were open. We discussed not only issues relating to our countries, we discussed various issues, talked about our hobbies, then about peace and world problems. We talked openly, like our own people. It is very interesting to talk with him, and I openly admit that conversations with him are very informative.
The second one. Putin is a very open person. He speaks directly and expects him to speak directly and clearly. Therefore, we communicate without any “but” and “if”. We clearly understand that President Putin thinks so. Therefore, it is very easy for me to express my opinion to him.
I know that he is a physically very developed person, he leads an active lifestyle, keeps himself in shape. I love it. He is also interested in the environment, wildlife, the underwater world, especially interested in the problem of conservation of tigers and so on. I'm the same by nature. Therefore, it is natural that many things connect us.
Thirdly, India and Russia have similar opinions on almost all issues on the international agenda. And if they do not coincide, then the difference is small. This also greatly affects our relationship. With each meeting with President Putin, we are getting closer, and our relationship is developing. In a previous informal meeting, President Putin led me to see the school. I was pleased to meet with the students, and I invited them here to India. They came and met with our students, and it was very nice.
When I was in Russia for the last time, I decided that I would send a large group of Indian businessmen to the Russian Far East so that they themselves all saw at first. So we do everything openly.
You spoke about the proximity of the Russian and Indian peoples. This was written at the end of the XIX century by the Russian emperor Nicholas II, when he went on a trip around the world. He even wanted to open a consulate in Bombay. There have never been any conflicts or wars between our countries. I think this could not be. What prospects would you see for the future of Russian-Indian relations?
I note that many people in the world do not know that when Vladivostok was a closed city, the only exception was India, it was India that became the first foreign state to open its consulate there. This is a reflection of trust between our countries.
I would like to say that our relations in the economy, culture, trade, military-technical cooperation are developing very steadily. And yet, where do you see the unrealized potential? And you will have something to talk about with President Putin. What issues should be paid special attention from the point of view of the development of relations?
You see, the official forum follows in its discussions on the agenda, but informal negotiations are of particular importance. And we know from experience that, although this is a bilateral or multilateral forum, President Putin and I will always find time to talk.
We sit together and talk, walk and talk. In our relations there is a special chemistry, a special lightness. Here, in this forum, we will have a lot of time, I hope that we will be able to discuss a lot of issues.
Secondly, our bilateral relations with Russia are one thing. But we speak from a single point of view in multilateral formats, Russia always takes a friendly position to us. Both we and Russia dream of a multipolar world. This is what the world needs today. We have gone from a bipolar world to a unipolar world, but now we are gradually moving towards a multipolar world. At the same time, we must think carefully about all the issues of this progression in order to gradually move forward. India and Russia have the same point of view on this issue.
Continuing the conversation about relations between India and Russia, I want to note that if you intend to develop the Far East, then you need labor resources. And India has great potential in this area. For example, in the Gulf countries, over 9 million Indians have been working in the last 30–40 years. In any state of West Asia, the Persian Gulf, when you arrive there, they will be happy to tell you that in the development of their countries over the past 40 years, the role of Indians and their work is very high.
But there is another ability of the Indians, out of those 9 million people who have been working hard and hard all 40 years, not one has renounced their citizenship. All of them remain citizens of India, their families live here in India. They constantly come here, are in constant contact with relatives. This is a feature of the Indian people.
I am sure that if millions of Indians go to work in the Far East, then after work they will return from Russia
Take, for example, the diamond industry, which is developed in my home state of Gujarat, he has extensive experience in working with diamonds. The Far East is also actively working in this area. Therefore, both parties can join forces.
It seems to me that nature itself connects us with the Far East. For example, every December Siberian cranes fly to my native state of Gujarat. For them, this is a kind of tourist destination. Siberian cranes fly from there to Gujarat, many Indians go to the Far East. So this is a natural connection.
You spoke about several of your initiatives with President Putin. I know about another initiative: you and President Putin have led the fight to save tigers, the iconic animal for India. Would you like this movement to become international?
The fact is that in 2020 we would like to hold a large forum on the conservation of the tiger population. I remember that ten years ago, President Putin came up with this initiative, and over the past ten years, India has done a lot to save tigers. The number of these animals doubled in ten years. This is a great success for India and for the whole world. I want to consult with President Putin on this subject, as he has extensive experience and interest in this topic.
I would also like to discuss with him questions concerning the development of labor resources. I want us to discuss with Mr. Putin the problem of developing labor resources, including in the Far East, and for India to join this process.
You have one more thing in common that unites you with the president. This is the ability to maintain oneself in great physical shape. You talked about yoga, thanks to you there was a Yoga Festival. And now, on your initiative, a new Fit India movement has appeared in India, what tasks do you set for it?
The natural instinct of a person, and anywhere in the world, is to grow, develop. By all means, a person wants to become stronger, more energetic. This is the very nature of man. Even a small child, when he sleeps, then in a dream tries to walk on his own. We see students ten times a day trying to pull themselves up, to hang on the horizontal bar, that is, they are engaged in physical exercises to become taller. Nobody teaches them. They do it themselves. But today, man is immersed in a routine, because of which this natural instinct is suppressed. People must return to their beginning.
But in order to achieve this alone, it takes a lot of effort. But if this becomes a collective goal, then even with less effort you can achieve more results. Therefore, I began to create the Fit India mass movement. I believe that Fit India can play a big role in the prevention of diseases, while such a movement does not require funds, but gives a greater return. Therefore, I try to create a collective action, when everyone is working together, joining forces, developing methods of training, and an exchange of experience. Development goes on its own.
I would like to touch upon another important topic in our relations, this is military-technical cooperation. It seems important to note that the relationship is not going on the principle of buying something, but on the principle of interaction in creating new technologies? Technical interaction? How do you rate this area of your relationship?
I always tell President Putin that relations between India and Russia should not be relations between a buyer and a seller.
We are close friends. And as close friends, we should think that we can do together in the future
Information technology is developing well in India; we are making progress in the space industry. Now, when we are developing the Gaganyan project (Heavenly spaceship - the first Indian manned spacecraft - approx. TASS), Russia will help us with the preparation of our cosmonauts. Our cooperation of this kind is not limited only to military-technical and related fields. It goes beyond that.
When we recently invited schoolchildren from Russia to India, they showed brilliant results. They came here to us, together with our students conducted various experiments. And as a result, we saw that the students on both sides complemented each other perfectly. President Putin and I were surprised that in some 36 hours they managed to do real miracles. And so we do not want to be limited only by the relationship of the buyer and seller of military technology. We are confident in the technology transfer model. I have already spoken about this several times, and we have even begun to move in this direction.
Today, subject to technology transfer, it is possible to produce military equipment cheaply in India. And we can supply such weapons to third countries at very low prices. This opportunity of India and Russia should be used.
I must say, Mr. Prime Minister, that if you look at how our relations are developing in the international arena, the positions of Moscow and Delhi are very close or completely coincide on most modern foreign policy issues. In particular, our countries stand for a multipolar world, which takes into account the national interests of all countries and peoples. In addition to bilateral cooperation, Russia and India are very actively developing ties and contacts within the framework of international and regional organizations, such as the UN, G20, BRICS, SCO. How do you rate our interaction in this area?
Our relations have been tested by various tests and have proven their strength over 50-60 years, especially over the past 20 years, on all international issues, India and Russia have similar positions. Our general opinion influenced world politics. Look: we are not neighbors, we do not have a common border, but our souls are similar. Therefore, nothing holds back our cooperation. I am surprised that Russian people know songs from Indian films more than I do. They know all the words and even know their meanings.
At the celebration of the upcoming 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, Russian artists who spent their whole lives in Russia sang a religious song in Gujarati, the language of my native state. They sang this song very well. I even showed a video of the song to President Putin and said: "Look at what a high level these Russian artists work." You correctly said that Indian films from Bollywood influenced Russians. Here I meet young people who also know Indian songs. Everyone remembers Raj Kapoor. It was more popular with you than in India. He was a great artist of our country. And four generations of his family today work great in the movies.
Today, the attention of the whole world is riveted to a very difficult Kashmir issue. How would you comment on the situation in Kashmir?
Look, Kashmir has a long history. When India gained independence in 1947, it was divided, the country of Pakistan appeared. But from birth, Pakistan dreamed of destroying India, and they began with Kashmir. He divided Kashmir, a large part of it is occupied by Pakistan. And even today, the Pakistan army is killing people in this part of Kashmir. India is constantly working for the benefit of the people in its part. We have contributed to the peaceful and good development of Kashmir - in the films of Raj Kapoor you too could see scenes shot in Kashmir.
And this is precisely what Pakistan did not like, so they fought against us, but could not win. And then they began to fight with us stealthily. For 40 years, they have turned Kashmir and the Ladakh region into a terrorist base.
In the past 20–25 years, 43,000 innocent people have died. We captured thousands of kilograms of explosives, thousands of AK-47 assault rifles. Pakistan is constantly exporting terrorism, terrorism has become an industry. They created a feeling of isolation from India in Kashmiris.
Since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru (First Prime Minister of India - TASS), we have tried to solve this problem. But she did not dare. India is now paying particular attention to the rights of its citizens in Kashmir. You will be surprised that the women of Kashmir did not have the same rights as women in all of India. Ordinary Kashmiris did not have the rights that ordinary citizens have throughout India. Those people who had to move from Pakistan to India in 1947 received all rights. But those people who moved to Kashmir did not receive equal rights. There is not even a right to vote. In Kashmir, anti-corruption laws did not apply.
Kashmiris expressed dissatisfaction, they waited a long time for their rights to be received. We believe that they should also receive rights, opportunities for development. They should have the right to stand up. Therefore, we are doing everything for the good of the people of Kashmir.
Speaking about the elections, in India and even beyond its borders everyone was sure that our government would return to power, people only doubted whether we would get the majority of seats [in parliament], some thought that there would be no absolute majority. But the mood of our people was such that we were able to go down in history, having received a vast majority. I am grateful to the Indian people for this.
And President Putin loves India. India and Russia believe that we can develop together, of which I am sure, and Mr. Putin. And we are confident that the peoples of our countries together can give much to the world.
Russia is one of the main suppliers of energy resources to India. What is your opinion on the potential and prospects of cooperation between Russia and India in the energy sector?
“You said it right.” One of the important sources of energy for India is Russia. Our companies, and I think this is right, began to invest in Russia, in the energy sector. I understand that oil production and its transportation are expensive. But as a true friend, we love Russia, and when we work together, it is beneficial for both sides. We would like to cooperate even more actively in the energy sector.
Last year at the UN General Assembly in New York, you were awarded the highest annual international award by the world organization Earth Champion for his outstanding contribution to environmental protection. We know that you are making great efforts in this direction. Which of your environmental activities is of most importance to you personally?
First of all, we should not think about ourselves, about the rewards for us. We must work for the good of people, for their development, work in the interests of the citizens of our country for the benefit of the whole world. We must leave a safe planet, a safe world for future generations.
And India is working in the same direction - to preserve nature and atmosphere. This is probably why I was awarded. But when I was the chief minister of Gujarat, then I did not think about whether the UN knew about me or not. I acted as a protector of nature, tigers in my state. I did a great job for this. Since all this is in our culture and traditions.
We must not kill nature. We must respect nature, preserve it, worship it, all this is part of our culture. It is good that the whole world is thinking about it now.
India is an ancient culture and civilization with rich traditions. How are national traditions and modern Indian society combined today?
India has chosen its own path of development, where there is no place for a conflict between the old and the new. Why is there no conflict? Because the main mantra of India is not a revolution in which they speak of destruction, abandonment of the old.
India talks about evolution, not revolution
We believe in the eternal soul, in the fact that the body changes depending on the circumstances, but the soul remains unchanged. The Almighty made it so that our body collapses after a certain time and a new one appears. So we work according to the same formula: in a new body we act with new energy.
As Mahatma Gandhi said, as the Buddha said, we believe in the unity of the living: all animals, birds, people, white and black, are one from the East or from the West. We consider the whole world as one family. And so we choose the path without conflict - the path of negotiation, understanding, agreement. Here is the main mantra or idea of India!
We are now going to the present. Our children go into the field of information technology, but we will not just wait for the future. We are ready to use everything that is created by mankind, knowledge is open to all. What we will do should be for the benefit of all.
In Russia, just a tourist boom around India. People tend to go to Delhi, and to Bombay, and to the resorts of Goa. Where would you personally advise tourists to go to India, what to see, try? And where do you yourself love to be in your wonderful country?
If you come to the state of Goa, you will see that there sellers even speak Russian, since many guests from Russia come there. But I would like to say that India is a huge country, that in order to watch it, you will have to draw up a program for 20 years in advance in order to stay in each state for at least one month a year. And even this month will not be enough for you.
If you want to look at snow, desert sand, mountains, beaches, the sea, rivers, steppes, forests, we all have it. Here you can see everything your soul wants. Even the oldest port in the world of the Mohenjo-Daro era can be seen here - it is located in Gujarat.
An Indian proverb says that managing a thousand people is as difficult as managing three. You are the prime minister of a country with more than a billion people. What basic principles do you follow in your work? How do you make decisions? How do you keep in touch with over a billion people?
I agree with you that it seems to foreigners a strange country with 1.3 billion people, in which 100 languages, 1700 dialects, completely different landscapes ... How does this fit together?
First, India is a culturally united community. And we accept it.
Second, we know about the perception of people from other countries that everything should be governed and directed, but attempts to govern such a country as India are doomed to failure. Therefore, do not even try. India accepts freedom and diversity. We respect each other’s freedom and diversity.
We refused direct control and made a bet on reporting what we consider necessary to take the direction. Send your message in such a way that a person, in accordance with his interests, tastes, capabilities, responds to your message, answers it according to his abilities. Therefore, I do not rule the country, but we direct the country.
Therefore, leading such a country is not power management. It is not like "I am one thing, and you are another." “I” and “we” are not different, we are leading this country together, and we are moving forward, saying not “I”, but “we”. This is the power of the word “we,” with which we are walking with 1.3 billion people to raise the country to new heights.