Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave Swarajya an exclusive interview, covering a wide range of subjects including political challenges from a Mahagathbandhan against the NDA in 2019, the NDA’s own allies problem, the Kashmir crisis, the alleged concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office and the BJP’s talent deficit.
(If you missed the first part of Swarajya’s interview with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, read it here.)
In an interview to Swarajya on 30 June, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke his mind on the challenges faced by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government when it took over from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2014, its approach to economic reforms, especially the privatisation of public sector units (PSUs), the efforts to put Indian banking back on the rails, the political challenges from a Mahagathbandhan against the NDA in 2019, the NDA’s own allies problem, the Kashmir crisis, the alleged concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) talent deficit, and many other issues.
Here’s the second and final part of the interview:
The Grand Alliance Has No Agenda, Only Modi Removal
Swarajya: Let us move from economics to politics. The countdown to 2019 has begun and there is a lot of discussion of a Grand Alliance of the Opposition. Are you worried by the formation of such an alliance, considering such alliances do tend to succeed in the short-term, as shown in 1977 and 1989?
Modi: The BJP contests elections on the issues of development and good governance.
On various parameters – economics, security, social justice, foreign policy – our government has done well. After 2014, time and again the people have blessed us in all parts of India. The mandates we have received in state after state are historic. Hence, we are confident that people will repose their trust in us.
As for a Grand Alliance, the comparisons with 1977 and 1989 are flawed. In 1977, the common motive of the alliance was to protect our democracy that was under great threat due to the Emergency. In 1989, the record-breaking corruption of Bofors had hurt the entire nation.
Today, these alliances are not motivated by national good but they are about personal survival and power politics. They have no agenda except to remove Modi.
Swarajya: The opposition seems to be a step ahead of the BJP when it comes to coalition politics.
Modi: The people of India must know what the Congress thinks about coalition politics. In 1998, their party met in Pachmarhi, where no less than the then Congress president Smt. Sonia Gandhi referred to coalition politics as a ‘passing phase’ and the party expressed its desire for a one-party rule.
From the arrogance of Pachmarhi, the Congress is now running from pillar to post, looking for allies. They are fighting a battle for their existence, what I call an ‘astitva ki ladhai.’ This is due to the people of India, who have rejected the high-handedness of the Congress.
Every alliance needs a cementing factor or an anchoring party. Today, the Congress is like a regional party. They are in power only in Punjab, Mizoram and Puducherry. In Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim they have no representation in the Assembly. Their ‘strength’ in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is also well known. So, who is the cementing element for this alliance?
The people of India also know how the Congress tends to treat allies. They are known to betray and insult others, be it farmer leaders like Chaudhary Charan Singh Ji and or H D Deve Gowda Ji , socialists like Chandra Shekhar Ji and even V P Singh Ji when he was minister. For their selfish interests, Congress can sacrifice anything.
Swarajya: But they seem to be united right now in a grand alliance.
Modi: In the opposition, there is no Grand Alliance, there is just a grand race to be prime minister. Mr. Rahul Gandhi says he is ready to be prime minister but TMC does not agree. Mamata Ji wants to be PM but the Left has a problem. SP thinks their leader more than anyone else deserves to be PM. The whole focus is power politics, not people’s progress.
Hatred for Modi is the sole gluing force for the Opposition and it is not as if they have not tried Grand Alliances in 2014 and in the ensuing state elections. The results are for everyone to see.
How long will the dislike and mistrust these parties and leaders have for each other keep them together? They are in direct bitter contests against each other in various states like West Bengal and Kerala. The last time these parties formed a government in Uttar Pradesh (in 1993), it could not even last two years. Such instability adversely impacts the growth trajectory of our nation.
Swarajya: But they recently formed a government in Karnataka.
Modi: A trailer of what is possibly in store can be seen in Karnataka. After a stolen mandate a government was formed, but the bickering continues. You would expect ministers meeting each other to solve development issues but in Karnataka they meet only to quell infighting! Development has taken a back seat.
In any election, a non-ideological and opportunist coalition is the best guarantee for chaos.
The next election will be a choice between governance and development on one side and chaos on the other.
Swarajya: Opposition politics will continue to evolve but when it comes to the NDA, things are not looking good. In 2014, the BJP got a historic majority and the NDA got its best-ever tally but the allies are not on the same page as the BJP. Is today’s NDA a weaker NDA?
Modi: Your question is two decades late! It seems as if you are living in the 90s, when an important political question was, will Atal Ji get allies? Will other parties ever support the BJP? In 1996, the BJP could not form the government but under two years later, under Atal Ji’s leadership, an expanded NDA went on to serve India for six years.
Today, things are even better. The NDA is a large and happy family of over 20 parties. It is leading strong coalitions in various states of India. Which other alliance has such an impressive membership and is serving in so many states?
I want to take you back to the run-up to the 2014 campaign when some people would ask, “Can Modi get allies at all?” The fact was – that time we had an alliance of over 20 parties!
Yes, it is true that the mandate for BJP in 2014 was special. That time, we could have easily formed the government on our own. But, we did not do so and instead took our NDA allies along, made them a part of the government.
You must understand how we in the BJP view the NDA. NDA is not our compulsion. It is an article of faith. A large and diverse NDA is good for India’s democracy.
In a country like ours, it is most important to respect regional aspirations. NDA is committed to fulfilling these aspirations across the length and breadth of India.
Swarajya: Coming to the BJP, what is it doing to expand its social base? Some of your old base, like traders, were unhappy with GST. You are often seen as a Hindi-belt party…
Modi:That the BJP has a narrow social base is an old myth perpetuated by a select group of people. We were said to be a Brahmin-Bania party; then it was said that we are an urban party and that we are a north-based party. This is totally false.
Ours is a party that draws support from all social groups. Our social base is very wide. It is parties that are run by families that draw their strength only from a few social groups.
In fact, in 1984, when we won just two seats, one of those seats was from the south and the other from the west (both non-Hindi speaking states).
Since you asked me about the BJP and the party’s social base, you must study the BJP’s performance in Gujarat. Continuously and consistently we have been winning there. This time too we won with a vote share of 49 per cent. It is not usual for one party to remain in power in a state for 27 years.
Swarajya: There is a view that the BJP is weakening in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh where you won a lot of seats in 2014 and again in 2017 Assembly elections.
Modi: On this issue, you will always find two sets of views: one, the hawa is very much there. Two, the hawa is long over.
You all are veteran observers of politics. I leave it to your wisdom, and develop your opinion on the subject.
I just have one anecdote to share. Before the 1998 Gujarat elections the BJP had not done very well in some of the local elections across Gujarat. A lot of people would ask me if we would manage to win in the Assembly polls. Initially, I tried to explain the context and highlighted how the dynamics of a local election differed from an Assembly election. But, eventually I made a small folder containing details about the nature of the elections, our efforts there, the larger picture, etc. Whoever asked me I gave them that folder and said, you study this and then come to me.
When the elections happened in 1998, the BJP formed the government in Gujarat with a resounding two-thirds majority!
Swarajya: Speaking about elections, do you see your idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’ materialising in the near future? Why is no one supporting you on this?
Modi: First of all, the issue of ‘One Nation, One Election’ is not Narendra Modi’s idea. This is an issue that has been raised by several people, at different points of time. Eminent statesmen like Shri Pranab Mukherjee and Shri L K Advani have spoken about it. Recently, even Shri Naveen Patnaik has supported the idea.
In fact, if you recall India’s history post-1947, the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls across states were held together, which means there is also precedence for this to happen.
Do you know that India does not have a common electoral roll…which means that rolls differ for parliamentary and Assembly polls, and for local level elections.
The frequency of polls and the manner in which they are spread out means devoting resources to keep updating it time and again, without any guarantee that this roll will be used in the poll after the one for which updation was done in the first place.
Voters have to keep checking if their names are there on the list. A common electoral roll and simultaneous polls will change this. Even the scope of errors and omissions will come down significantly.
Swarajya: What are the benefits of the idea?
Modi: As public servants, our prime role is to ensure good governance and harness the aspirations of those who have reposed faith in us. Due to elections not being held together, there is a frequently recurring campaign period along with long model codes of conduct, which lead to delays in development decisions.
The entire exercise of electioneering involves lots of resources. Elections at different points of time also mean a heavy burden on the exchequer.
Elections require proper security measures to be put in place. Combined elections would mean our personnel spend lesser time on poll duty and more time in their respective states, focused on better policing and security.
It is also my view that the electioneering cycle in the current form weakens the federal structure. This is because the campaign trail that precedes an election often takes an aggressive nature and the parties at the Centre and the states are pitted against each other.
By devoting a specific time for electioneering, the subsequent post-election period becomes one of undivided attention to governance and development for all elected governments across the nation.
Thus, holding Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls together will involve lesser waste of resources and enable a healthy culture of working together in the spirit of cooperative federalism for the common pursuit of India’s progress.
I do call upon media organisations such as yours, policy enthusiasts and youngsters to talk about this subject as much as they can and also come up with effective frameworks through which this idea can see the light of day.
Thoughts On Maoist Threat, North-East Insurgency And Priorities In Jammu And Kashmir
Swarajya: Shall we move away from politics to internal security? Is the government’s policies to mitigate the threat of Maoism working?
Modi: Since you asked about internal security, first and foremost I would like to salute our brave security forces who are eternally vigilant and are ensuring peace as well as prosperity for 125 crore Indians. You can ascertain our security situation from the fact that recurrent terror attacks that were common under the UPA are now history.
The numbers vis-a-vis Maoist violence in the last four years should make every Indian happy. Maoist violence has declined by 20 per cent in the affected states, with a concomitant reduction of 34 per cent in deaths in 2017 compared to 2013.
Geographically as well, the influence of Maoist violence has shrunk substantially.
Swarajya: But is it just about security and force, or also development?
Modi: It is true that Maoist violence had stalled the progress of many districts in central and eastern India. That is why in 2015, our government formulated a comprehensive ‘National Policy and Action Plan’ to eradicate Maoist violence. Along with zero tolerance towards violence, we have also focused on a massive push to infrastructure and social empowerment to bring a positive change in the lives of the poor people in these regions.
The unparalleled development focus is reaping rich dividends.
About 4,500 kilometres of roads have already been built in 34 Maoist-affected districts. Earlier, work at such speed and scale was not even imaginable!
About 2,400 mobile towers have been installed and an additional 4,072 towers have been approved to enhance connectivity.
When we assumed office, we got to know that there were no Kendriya Vidyalayas in 11 out of 35 districts most affected by Maoist violence. Eight new Kendriya Vidyalayas and five new Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas are imparting quality education to children.
These are large residential schools, well equipped with trained teachers and excellent infrastructure in terms of science, IT education and extracurricular activities. Fifteen ITIs and 43 Skill Development Centres have been set up across these places to fulfill the aspirations of the youth.
Maoist-affected areas had limited access to banks. Between April 2015 and December 2017, about 430 new bank branches and 1,045 ATMs have been opened in 35 districts most affected by Maoist violence.
I have personally travelled to Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal on numerous occasions. On 14 April (Ambedkar Jayanti) the first phase of Ayushman Bharat (Rs 5 lakh of health insurance to each selected family) was rolled out from Bastar, one of the most Maoist-affected districts in India.
Swarajya: Has the area under Left Wing Extremism (LWE) really shrunk?
Modi: No area likes being called an LWE-affected area. It adversely impacts the psyche of the local population. Based on the changed ground realities, 44 out of 126 districts have been removed from the list of LWE-affected areas. These are those districts that did not see any violence for the last four years.
Due to the government's policies, the push for development and zero tolerance for any violence, about 3,380 Maoists surrendered from 2014 to 2017. From 2010 to 2013, the number stood around 1,380.
India, the land of Mahatma Gandhi, Lord Buddha and Bhagwan Mahavir, has a rich history of non-violence and brotherhood.
What can solve people’s problems is not violence but development. And that is why, our approach (while having no tolerance for any sort of violence and disturbance) is to devote unparalleled resources towards the development of areas prone to violence.
Swarajya: While we are talking about security, we also want to bring up the question of your personal security. Your well-wishers feel very nervous seeing you do these road shows, and their number is only increasing now.
Modi: Whenever I am travelling, I see that a lot of people, from all age groups and sections of society, are out on the streets to greet me and welcome me.
I can’t just remain seated in my car, aloof from their display of affection and care. That is why I invariably get down and greet, interact with people as much as I can.
I am not a Shahenshah or an imperious ruler who is unaffected by their warmth. Being among people gives me lot of strength.
Swarajya: The alliance in Jammu and Kashmir did not work as you had imagined. Now that there is Governor’s rule, what is the aim for the state.
Modi: In Kashmir, our goal is good governance, development, responsibility and accountability.
Swarajya: Will there be dialogue with stakeholders?
Modi: We have appointed an interlocuter, and he is in touch with many people. He is travelling to the interiors and engaging with people.
Swarajya: Politically, the BJP has expanded its footprint in the North East, but is the security situation better now?
Modi: The security situation in the North East has improved tremendously. In 2017, we had the lowest insurgency-related incidents and casualties among civilians and security forces in the last 20 years!
Tripura and Mizoram are virtually free from insurgency. In Meghalaya, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been removed from all areas from 31 March 2018 and in Arunachal Pradesh it is remaining only in eight police stations.
We are leaving no stone unturned to protect our sisters and brothers of the North East. Police infrastructure is being strengthened across the region. Wherever needed, additional India Reserve Battalions are being raised.
It is extremely anguishing when misguided youngsters are drawn to violence. We want to bring these youngsters back to the mainstream, so that they can contribute to the development of India. In the North East, there is the surrender-cum-rehabilitation policy. We revised the policy in April 2018 so that more youngsters who turned to militancy come back to the mainstream.
Like I explained in the context of Maoist violence, the emphasis on development is reaping rich dividends.
The ministry dealing with the North East is fully immersed in facilitating the all-round growth of the region. In fact, a system is in place which ensures that every 15 days a minister or a senior official visits the North East. I have made about 30 trips to the region myself.
Swarajya: The North East is also getting better connected to the rest of India…
Modi: Connectivity gives a big boost to the development of a region. It was our government that had the honour of putting Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya on the railway map of India.
Furthermore, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura are also on broad-gauge map of the country.
A few weeks ago, the first commercial flight in three decades reached Arunachal Pradesh. The road network is being expanded and waterways are being harnessed.
The Centre is devoting resources to harness the potential of the North East in organic farming. Sikkim has done very well in this sector and the other states are also tapping the rich potential in this sector.
An improved security situation combined with a push for development is convincing people about the perils of violence and instability. It is also fulfilling the aspirations of the youth of the state.
The Catalytic Role Of PMO, Government’s ‘Talent-Deficit’ And Congress’s ‘Emergency Culture’
Swarajya: Let’s talk about the government. It is said that this is the most powerful PMO in recent years? Concentration of powers in the hands of one office does not augur well for our nation.
Modi: The answer to your question lies within your question itself. If the benchmark of comparison of the present PMO is with the previous PMO, then I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find it more decisive and powerful. Everyone knows how things ran under the UPA government. The PMO was reduced to a game of politics instead of being the driver of good governance. And whenever politics takes centre stage, governance takes a back seat.
Under this NDA government, there is no such confusion or misplaced priorities. Each institution and at every level of governance is enabled and empowered to do what it is meant to do. The PMO also faithfully and effectively carries out its responsibility of providing the necessary clarity, decisiveness and facilitation that is needed for the government to deliver its commitment of good governance and development.
Swarajya: This is too generic an explanation…
Modi: To go beyond mere generalities, one should understand the underlying structure of our government system. The roles and responsibilities of each office are clearly laid out in the allocation of business rules. The PMO’s mandate is to offer secretarial assistance to the Prime Minister. Ministries drive the governance agenda in their respective domains and verticals, while horizontal offices like the NITI Aayog, Cabinet Secretariat and PMO may provide the cross-sectoral, longer-term, bigger-picture perspective.
Therefore, functioning as a catalytic agent, the PMO facilitates, coordinates and converges the agenda and priorities of the various members of ‘Team India’ – a team comprising not just of our central ministries, but encompassing each and every state government. Take the example of our Pragati initiative, wherein using technology we bring onto the same platform every month, all central ministries, state governments and even district administrations, to solve problems and debottleneck long-standing issues and challenges, at times even dating back decades. Would you call this centralisation and interference, or decisive intervention that activates and enables?
Let me give you another example of healthcare. Today, India is witnessing a transformation in the sector. India’s strides are being powered by the stellar teamwork of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, Ministry of Ayush, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. The PMO provides assistance in coordinating and bringing together so many different ministries and departments. From silos created due to isolated working, we are working towards solutions due to integration.
On the whole, the erstwhile regime, running on the whims and fancies of select ‘powerful’ individuals, has been decisively replaced by an institutionalised and democratic governance process, functioning by the letter and spirit as laid down by our farsighted forefathers in our Constitution.
In this PMO, the 125 crore people are our ‘high command’.
Swarajya: There seems to be a talent-deficit in your ministry…Some ministers don’t seem to be doing well…
Modi: This is an incorrect perception. Just because only a few ministers and ministries make it to the front pages or prime-time debates, they are deemed as talented and others are deemed the opposite. The conventional mindset is also to bracket ministries and make presumptions about their value.
However, the work culture of this government is different. I would like to illustrate my point with a few examples.
Let us talk about rural housing. This is not a sector that is connected to cities or the digital world.
In the last four years, more than one crore houses have been built in rural areas. This is a big number. Crores of Indians who did not have a shelter over their head now have their own homes.
Just to give you an indication of the extent of work done by the team working on rural housing, the UPA, in their last four years, from 2010 to 2014, built 25 lakh houses. This is one-fourth of what the NDA government has built. This is the work done by someone many in the media will call ‘non-talented.’
I would like to give you another example – of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Conventional wisdom suggests that this ministry is not “glamorous” and hence it does not make as much news as it should, but let me give you a glimpse of the exceptional work this department has done.
This year, the budget allocation for the welfare of SC and ST communities stood at Rs 95,000 crore and there was a whopping 41 per cent rise in the budget for the welfare of OBCs.
It was under this ‘non-talented minister’ that our government had the honour of bringing the strongest amendments in the SC/ST Act.
The government of India is developing the five notable places associated with Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar as ‘Panchteerth’. In two cases, the Mahaparinirvan Bhumi at 26, Alipur Road in Delhi, and the Dr Ambedkar International Centre at 15, Janpath, I had the honour of both laying their foundation stone and inaugurating these buildings.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, raised the types of disabilities from seven to 21. For the first time, victims of acid attacks have been included in the list. The Act includes provisions for right to free education for Divyang children from the ages of six to 18.
Reservation for persons with disabilities for government jobs has been raised from 3 per cent to 4 per cent. This will bring several more opportunities for our Divyang sisters and brothers.
In the last four years, the Ministry has hosted over 7,200 camps due to which 11 lakh persons with disabilities benefited.
Substantial progress has been made under the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan in ensuring dignity and equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. Due to these proactive efforts, the pace of making government buildings accessible is unparalleled. Similarly, all 34 international and 48 domestic airports are accessible and so are 644 out of 709 A1, A and B category railway stations.
All these works have happened due to the active role of the ministry, both in terms of ideation and coordinating with other departments.
In this interview itself I have spoken at length about the strides in agriculture…under a ‘non-talented’ minister, the department has undertaken futuristic initiatives such as soil health cards and the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana that are helping crores of farmers.
These are just three examples I have given…I am proud of all my colleagues and their work.
Swarajya: There are some extreme views gaining ground that freedom of expression and sanctity of institutions are shrinking under the BJP. How do you respond to this?
Modi: You yourself have used the right word for such views – extreme!
Recently, the nation observed the 43rd anniversary of the Emergency. It was an attack on freedom of press, freedom of expression, sanctity of institutions and democracy itself. Many of our senior leaders bore the brunt of the Emergency because they stood up to fight for these rights.
In fact, some of our leaders, including sitting Cabinet ministers, ministers in various states, went to jail during the Emergency and withstood lathis. This shows how much we cherish democratic values and freedom. Hence, I find such a discourse about damage to institutions under the BJP absurd and incorrect. That is not our value system at all.
In fact, if you look at India’s history since 1947, it is the Indian National Congress that has subverted our democracy, judiciary and media, time and again.
As early as 1959, which is less than a decade after we became a Republic, the Nehru government dismissed a democratically-elected communist government in Kerala. A detailed study of the number of times Congress governments imposed Article 356 will present a chilling picture of how they held our democracy to ransom. Mrs Indira Gandhi herself imposed Article 356 over 50 times and that too on flimsy grounds. If one family did not like a particular state government, all resources were devoted to get it dismissed or toppled.
Swarajya: But that era is over…
Modi: The Congress party’s culture is the culture of the Emergency – arguably the darkest period after 1947. The media, courts, arms of the government were held hostage to power politics and an anti-democratic mindset.
Look at the events in the last seven to eight years as well. The Congress went on an overdrive to discredit every possible institution. From Modi hatred, they have graduated to India hatred.
The Congress also has different tricks for the time when they are in power and when they are in Opposition, but even then, disrespect for institutions is visible. In power, their leaders victimised an Army Chief and the CAG just because they did not toe the Congress line.
In Opposition, they mocked the Indian Army for the Surgical Strikes, they find fault with our other security forces. Now they also attack reputed rating agencies that are optimistic about India, they discredit the RBI…now they are after the courts.
Their onslaught on the election process of India is alarming. They did not find EVMs faulty when they won in 2009 or in various states. Instead of introspecting why, in state after state, people are rejecting them, the Congress is finding fault in the poll process. What can one say to such a thought process?
As for the media, I have time and again said that constructive criticism by the media strengthens our democracy and more constructive criticism is welcome. The advent of social media has in fact made our discourse a lot more democratic. Earlier, while only a handful of self-appointed experts were seen speaking about issues, now all it takes is a tweet or Facebook post by a common citizen of India to express himself or herself. This is the power of social media.
Our institutions and our democracy are vibrant as always. India’s democratic ethos can’t be trampled over.
Swarajya: From internal affairs, let us discuss foreign policy. That you have developed a personal chemistry with leading world leaders is well known but has that chemistry resulted in tangible gains to India’s foreign policy?
Modi: The foreign policy of the NDA government has been about unprecedented outreach with unparalleled outcomes. India has engaged with the world, not only to further the interests of 125 crore Indians but also to make our world a better place for our future generations.
As for my visits overseas, one thing that I sense everywhere is the fact that India is seen as a bright spot in the world.
To understand the kind of interest India now attracts from the world, look at the number of foreign tourists coming to India. In 2017, for the first time ever, India registered over 10 million foreign tourist arrivals. This is about 33 per cent higher than 2014, and a record high in its own right.
Look at our FDI inflows. The cumulative FDI equity inflows into India stood at about $ 222 billion in May 2014. By the end of 2017, this had grown to about $ 368 billion – an increase of over 65 per cent. FDI inflows to India are also at a record high. From ‘Make in India’ to ‘Smart Cities’, from ‘Clean Ganga’ to ‘Clean India’, and from ‘Digital India’ to ‘Start-up India’, we have forged unprecedented partnerships across the world.
There are critical areas such as technology, skill development, agriculture where we have picked up several best practices from all over the world. Several countries are partnering cities across India and helping them in their quest towards becoming ‘Smart Cities’.
Today, India is a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement. These are organisations of great importance to the world, with tangible impacts, and India has a voice at them for the first time. Four years ago, this was not the case. Infact, India was trying to join these bodies for years.
You can also see the kind of attention world pays to India’s views. India’s proposal at the UN to declare 21 June as International Day of Yoga received unanimous approval in a record time. The proposal to create an International Solar Alliance has become a reality through a new global treaty-based organisation.
India’s push for combating black money and terrorism has found tremendous resonance in G-20. We have also succeeded in becoming a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. From BRICS to Commonwealth to East Asia Summit, India’s voice now matters like it hasn’t before.
This year itself, I attended two informal summits, in China and Russia. These gave me an opportunity to talk at length about regional and global issues with President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin. These summits are adding great strength to our friendship with China and Russia.
India stands ready to help every citizen of the world in times of need. This is seen when Nepal faces an earthquake, when there is water shortage in the Maldives or when people are stranded in West Asia. We do not see the nationality of the person affected but we go out of the way to help fellow humans. We have been able to rescue over 90,000 Indians in distress to safety from across the world.
At the same time, my government has not allowed the start or completion of our development cooperation projects to be delayed waiting for any VVIP visits. That was the general tendency. But I have myself used video conferencing to inaugurate projects, to lay foundation stones, and sometimes even just to address audiences abroad, whether belonging to the overseas Indian community or foreign businessmen and investors interested in India.
Another area that many would find interesting is the return of artifacts. In 2016, at a special ceremony in Washington DC’s Blair House, US returned 200 historic artifacts. During one of her visits to India, Chancellor Angela Merkel got back a 10th century Durga idol. Australia has returned valuable artifacts as well. It is my constant endeavour to ensure these important traces of our history make their way back to India and more Indians can see them in order to understand their culture better.
Thus, you can see that be it trade, technology, skills training, fighting against terrorism, there have been substantial gains for India’s foreign policy in the last four years.