After AAP leader Ashutosh broke down on national television over a farmer's suicide during one of their rallies, Narendra Modi has taken up his cause by becoming, perhaps, the first prime minister to cry during an interview with the Time magazine. If this is not challenging the 'big boys don't cry' stereotype, then what is?
Time had only asked Modi about what influences his life and him as a leader, when apparently the PM choked with tears as his eyes welled up and in a shaky, lachrymose voice, he said "poverty".
Time magazine's latest issue features Narendra Modi, dressed in his signature kurta, on its cover. Apart from the cover story which discusses how Modi wants to change India, there is a longish interview with the Indian Prime Minister.
In a two-hour long exclusive with Time editor Nancy Gibbs, Asia editor Zoher Abdoolcarim and South Asia bureau chief Nikhil Kumar, Modi spoke about a plethora of issues ranging from his idea of India, democracy-dictatorship and development to diplomacy and terrorism.
Modi's replies are mostly repetitive (refer to his Hindustan Times interview), nothing that one hasn't read or heard before. He praises the revolution his party has brought about in the functioning of the government and the Indian economy. He praises his party's secular and democratic values. He pats himself on the back for all the good, great and amazing that he has achieved in "just ten months".
Some of the important issues on which the PM spoke:
On Federalism in India:
I coined a term for that, which I call cooperative Federalism. I took it actually a step further and called it cooperative competitive Federalism. Essentially the concept is that it would encourage different State governments to compete with each other for the growth of the country. What essentially I have tried to do, and I think we have managed to do that, is to convert the country from a single-pillar growth nation to a nation that has 30 pillars of growth; these are the 29 States of India and the Federal centre.
The Government of India tend to work in silos. Each department seems to work as a Government in itself...My effort has been to ensure that these silos get broken down, that there is a collective thought process which is brought about in the Federal government.
I see the Federal government not as an assembled entity but as an organic entity.
On Indo-US relationship:
If I have to describe the India-US relationship in a single word, I will say we are natural allies.
What should the India-US relationship be, what India can do for the US, what the US can do for India, I think that is a rather limited point of view to take. I think the way we should look at it is what India and the US can together do for the world.
Since nearly last three decades until this time that we have entered into the 21st century, there is by and large peace and tranquillity on the India-China border. It is not a volatile border. Not a single bullet has been fired for over a quarter of a century now. This essentially goes to prove that both countries have learnt from history.
It is true that there is a long border between India and China and a large part of it is disputed. Still, I think both countries have shown great maturity in the last couple of decades to ensure and commit to economic cooperation which has continued to grow over the last 20 to 30 years to a stage where we currently have an extensive trade, investment and project related engagement between the two countries.
What is needed perhaps is for the countries that believe in human values to come together and fight terrorism. We should not look at terrorism from the nameplates – which group they belong to, what are their names, what is their geographical location, who are the victims of terrorism…I think we should not see them in individual pieces. We should rather have a comprehensive look at the ideology of terrorism, see it as something that is a fight for human values, as terrorists are fighting against humanity.
I think the other thing that we need to undertake as a focused measure is to delink terrorism from religion.
I think terrorism is a thought process. It is a thought process that is a great threat to the international community. I am also not linking it to any particular religion or to the actions of religious leaders. I think it is something that, as I mentioned, the countries that believe in human values need to come together and fight as a collective and not looking at individual groups from the perspective of individual religions.
On setting a cap for India's emission
India has advocated and pursued economic growth in coexistence, in close bonding, with Nature for thousands of years of its history. In this part of the world, in Indian civilization in particular, the principle value is that exploitation of Nature is a crime, and we should only draw from Nature what is absolutely essential for your needs and not exploit it beyond that.
In terms of initiatives that we are going to take, there is going to be a heavy focus on using energy that is environment friendly.
I say this to the entire international community – that those who believe in undertaking environment-friendly development in their own countries, I invite them to come and be partners in the cleaning of river Ganges
For the farmers in India, I have launched an initiative called the Soil Health Card. It is essentially a system through which we inform the farmer of the toxicity in the soil which he is cultivating.
For the Himalayan region of India, I want to convert it into the organic cultivation capital for the entire world.
On religious tolerance
If you analyze the history of India carefully, you will probably not come across a single incident where India has attacked another country. Similarly you will not find any references in our history where we have waged war based on ethnicity or religion. The diversity of India, of our civilization, is actually a thing of beauty, which is something we are extremely proud of. Our philosophy of life, something that we have lived for thousands of years, is also reflected in our constitution. Our constitution has not come out of any abstract insularity. It essentially reflects our own civilizational ethos of equal respect for all religions.
My philosophy, the philosophy of my party and the philosophy also of my government is, what I call ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’, which essentially means, “Together with all, progress for all”. So, the underlying philosophy and the impulse of that particular motto is to take everybody together and move towards inclusive growth.
Religion and faith are very personal matters. So far as the government is concerned, there is only one holy book, which is the Constitution of India.
In fact, if I look at the definition of Hinduism, the Supreme Court of India has given a beautiful definition; it says that Hinduism is not a religion, it is actually a way of life.
If one looks at my own belief, I think I have grown up with these values which I mentioned earlier, that religion is a way of life. We also say ‘Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam’ – the entire world is one family, and respect for all religions. Those are the values I have grown up with.
In so far the Bhartiya Janata Party and my government are concerned, we absolutely do not believe in this type of ideology. And wherever an individual view might have been expressed with regard to a particular minority religion, we have immediately negated that.
For us, the unity and the integrity of the country are the top most priorities. All religions and all communities have the same rights and it is my responsibility to ensure their complete and total protection. My Government will not tolerate or accept any discrimination based on caste, creed, and religion. So there is no place for imaginary apprehensions with regard to the rights of the minorities in India.
Nothing seemed to be happening in the Government. There seemed to be a complete policy paralysis at that time. Two, corruption had spread throughout the system. Three, there was no leadership; it was a weak government at the centre. That was the context and the background in which I was elected.
So you need to see ten years of the last government versus ten months of my government.
Six-seven years before 2014, a view started emerging that ‘I’ in the BRIC had perhaps become less relevant or perhaps even a drag on the BRIC grouping.
In the last 10 months, the ‘I’ has reclaimed its position in the BRICS. Internationally, whether it is the IMF, the World Bank, Moody’s or other credit agencies, they are all saying in one voice, that India has a great economic future.
On democracy and dictatorship:
India by its very nature is a democracy. It is not just as per our Constitution that we are a democratic country; it is in our DNA.
I firmly believe that for us, democracy and belief in democratic values, are a matter of faith, which are spread across all political parties in the country.
If you were to ask me whether you need dictatorship to run India, no, you do not. Whether you need a dictatorial thought to run the country, no, you do not. Whether you need a powerful person who believes in concentrating power at one place, no you do not. If anything is required to take India forward, it is an innate belief in democracy and democratic values. I think that is what is needed and that is what we have. If you were to ask me at a personal level to choose between democratic values on the one hand, and wealth, power, prosperity and fame on the other hand, I will very easily and without any doubt choose democracy and belief in democratic values.
On freedom of speech:
So in so far as freedom of speech is concerned, there is absolutely not an iota of doubt in terms of our commitment and our belief in that.
There used to be another great thinker of the time called Charvaka who propounded a theory of extreme hedonism which was contradictory to the Indian ethos. He essentially said that “You do not have to worry about tomorrow, just live, eat, make merry today”. But even he with those extreme thoughts, which were totally contradictory to the Indian ethos, was equated to a sage and accommodated and given space to express his views in the Indian society.
If you look at the issue related to the telecast of the documentary that you referred, it is not a question of freedom of speech, it is more a legal question...It is something that we greatly respect as an important aspect of our democratic values.
On his biggest influence:
The question that you have asked actually touches my deepest core. I was born in a very poor family. I used to sell tea in a railway coach as a child. My mother used to wash utensils and do lowly household work in the houses of others to earn a livelihood.
I have seen poverty very closely. I have lived in poverty. As a child, my entire childhood was steeped in poverty. For me, poverty, in a way, was the first inspiration of my life, a commitment to do something for the poor. I decided that I would not live for myself but would live for others and work for them.