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'We Are Working Day And Night To Give Shape To The Bill'

Transcript of Prime Minister's onboard Media interaction during return from Moscow on December 17, 2011

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: I have just completed a very successful visit to Russia and I am very satisfied with the results of the annual summit with Russia which we have just concluded. Our strategic partnership with Russia, which is special and privileged, is steadily forging forward.

The depth and range of our relationship with Russia is growing. Our strong strategic partnership in nuclear energy, defence and space will, in future, be buttressed by a stronger economic relationship. Premier Putin mentioned that there are over 400 India-Russia cooperation projects under implimentation today. President Medvedev and I met with some of our CEOs and there are good prospects in pharmaceuticals, steel, diamonds and hydrocarbons.

We met at a time of turbulence in the world economy and uncertainty in the international order. We therefore discussed the political and economic situation in Asia and the world. We were both convinced that this complicated situation requires improvement and democratization of processes of global governance. President Medvedev described India as a strong contender for a permanent seat on the UNSC. Our views on current international issues, many of which are congruent, are expressed in the joint statement which is with you.

This has been a year of active diplomacy for India, with our immediate neighbours in the subcontinent, with major powers, and with our extended neighbourhood in SE Asia and West Asia. Although we end the year with increased uncertainty in the international system, it is clear that India also has opportunities in the UNSC, and the forums of BRICS, SAARC, G-20 and elsewhere to be a factor of peace and stability in the international system.

Q&A

On operationalisation of Kudankulam when ground realities are different

Well there are difficulties, there are some people who are worried about safety of nuclear reactors and we have gone out of our way to assure as much as we can that the nuclear reactors that are being put up at Kudankulam are the safest available anywhere in the world. We have appointed a group of fifteen experts to interact with the representatives appointed by the Tamil Nadu Government to interact with the local people and more and more people including the legislators and Members of Parliament I think they are increasingly of the view that this agitation is overdone. I have been in touch with Tamil Nadu Government and its my sincere hope that Tamil Nadu which is short of power supply will recognise that here is a plant of 2000 megawatts set up at a cost to the nation of 14000 crore rupees, we cannot simply let it idle, if it generates 2000 megawatts of power, nearly 1000 megawatts will be available for Tamil Nadu and the rest 1000 megawatts will be available for other states in the south. So I am confident that ultimately good sense will prevail, politics is sometimes I think too murky, but In the final analysis, I am convinced that good sense prevails and will prevail in this case.

Parochial sentiments are prevailing. Apart from Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu being riparian state it is not getting its share of power and the Cheif Minister has asked for more power to meet the state's needs

Well the Chief Minister has written a letter to me recently asking for some additional allocation of power from the central government. We are working at it, we recognise the need of Tamil Nadu, we will work with the government of Tamil Nadu to satisfy the legitimate requirements of power, in a manner which is consistent with the overall availability in the country...

But no power has been given...

Well we are at it and I was told that the Power Ministry has already indicated 100 megawatts straight away.

Water related issue with Tamil Nadu: yesterday the Supreme Court said that the Mullaperiyar issue can be settled by Prime Minister. How do you seek to solve the issue?

Well both Tamil Nadu and Kerala are two very very important states of our union, the well being of both the states is very dear to the hearts of the central government, and to my heart as well. There is a problem that has arisen, it is my sincere belief that there is no problem which cannot be resolved through dialogue, debate and discussion. And I am confident that when the two governments, their Chief Ministers and their officials sit together we will be able to find a mutually satisfactory solution. I am trying to persuade both governments to sit together, I have not succeeded so far, but I have not given up hope, if good sense prevails, as I do believe will prevail, I am confident in the leadership of both Tamil Nadu and Kerala, that this problem can be resolved in a mutually satisfactory manner.

In 2014, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) is quitting Afghanistan. What is the role you visualise of India Russia cooperation thereafter?

The US has announced that their forces will quit Afghanistan after 2014, but whether they will pull out their entire team or leave behind some people is not clear so far. As far as Russia and India are concerned, even after the American and other ISAF forces pull out of Afghanistan we have to recognise that Afghanistan happens to belong to a region where we all reside, therefore whatever happens in Afghanistan is of deep interest to Russia, is of deep interest to India and deep interest to all the neighbours of Afghanistan.

We have been engaged in a continuous dialogue with Russia on Afghanistan, we did that again, and I am very confident that both our countries recognise that it is a very serious issue and we should put all our wisdom, knowledge and experience into play to find a joint cooperative path to tackle this difficult problem.

When are you likely to revisit the issue of FDI in retail?

Well as I said we have to evolve a broadbased consensus and we will work towards that, it is my hope that once the elections to the various state Assemblies which are in the offing are over, all political parties can sit together, and we will then explore with them the possibilities of implementing the decision which is placed on hold.

There is an increasingly belligerent criticism of your government's performance by your own constituency, namely the industry, on the economic reforms story.

Our government stands committed to reforms as ever before. But there is such a thing as political compulsion. Given the nature of coalition, the fact that we as the Congress party do not have the majority, we have to move at a pace whereby all our allies can be on the same page. Therefore that certainly restricts our options, but we are hopeful that some essential reforms we can still push through after we have engaged our allies in a constructive, productive dialogue. There is no other way in which we can move forward. I am sure captains of industry recognise as much as anybody else what the reality of the political situation in India is.

Will you be able to pass the Lokpal Bill in this session?

Well we will make all the effort to pass the bill in this session. We are working day and night to give shape to the bill and its my hope that by tomorrow we should be able to bring the bill to the Cabinet. And thereafter we will be ready to take it to the Parliament. But once it is in parliament, it is in the hands of the parliament, we don’t know what could happen. But there should not be any doubt about our sincerity to get the bill passed in this session.

There has been criticism of the Home Minister in Indian media. Have you spoken to him and how do you respond?

I became aware of this problem just as I was leaving for Moscow. I have seen the newspapers, and I have also seen the statement issued by the Hon’ble Home Minister, but I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to him. But his statement is there for anybody to see, and he said that he is not guilty of the type of blame that is sought to be placed on his shoulder.

Any indication on the next Cabinet reshuffle

Cabinet induction and reshuffle is a process for which there is no immutable law of nature which determines whether it should take place or it should not take place. It all depends on the exigencies of the evolving situation.

Setbacks in the economic growth story, especially FDI-Dollar-Rupee rates.

There are temporary setbacks. We cannot be oblivious to what is happening in the world economy. The whole Eurozone crisis is something which has global impact everywhere. Everywhere the growth impulses are taking a beating and I sincerely believe that the world economy requires concerted efforts on part of all major powers to bring back the rhythm of growth process. I still believe that even if the world does not revert to the healthy growth path, in India we have the ability and the will to push for a growth rate of at least 8% per annum. Our savings rate is as high as 34%, our investment rate is as high as 36.5%. Unlike many other developing countries like China, our economy is not that much dependent on international trade, and therefore, if we can increase investment in infrastructure, and create adequate domestic demand for capital goods, we have the ability to sustain a growth path of 8% and maybe of 9% in the next five years.

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