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Democracy is our great legacy, it’s in our DNA: PM Modi

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

Speaking on the need of development of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on the girl child’s education and also on the need to ensure the safety of the girl child. He said that the dignity of women is a collective effort and not an issue which should be politicised by leaders in his first interview after assuming the office of the Prime Minister.

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Fareed Zakaria: After your election, people have begun asking again a question that has been asked many times for the last two decades, which is, will India be the next China. Will India be able to grow at 8-9 per cent a year consistently and transform itself and thus transform the world?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: India does not need to become anything else. India must become only India. This is a country that once upon a time was called ‘the golden bird’. We have fallen from where we were before. But now we have the chance to rise again. If you see the details of the last five or ten centuries, you will see that India and China have grown at similar paces. Their contributions to global GDP have risen in parallel and fallen in parallel. Today’s era once again belongs to Asia. India and China are both growing rapidly together. That is why India needs to remain India.

Fareed Zakaria: But people would still, I think, wonder that can India achieve the kind of 8 & 9 per cent growth rates that China has done consistently for 30 years and India has only done for a short period.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: It is my absolute belief that Indians have unlimited talent. I have no doubt about our capabilities. I have a lot of faith in the entrepreneurial nature of our 1.25 billion people. There is a lot of capability. And I have a clear road-map to channel it.

Fareed Zakaria: China’s behavior in the east China seas and the south China seas over the last two years has worried many of its neighbours. The head of the governments in Philippines and Vietnam have made very sharp statements worrying about it. Do you worry about it?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: India is different. It is a country of 1.25 billion people. We can’t run our country if we get worried about every small thing. At the same time, we can’t close our eyes to problems. That’s why India maintains that we are now in a different era. We are not living in the eighteenth century. China is also a country with an ancient cultural heritage. Look at how it has focused on economic development. It’s hardly the sign of a country that wants to be isolated. It wants to stay connected. That is why we should have trust in China’s understanding and have faith that it would accept global laws and will play its role in cooperating and moving forward.

Fareed Zakaria: Do you look at China and feel that it has been able to develop as fast as it has, really the fastest development in human history, because it is an authoritarian government, because the government has the power to build great infrastructure, to create incentives for investment. Do you look at that and think to yourself that that would be, there is a price to democracy that you have to do things a little bit more slowly.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: If China is one example, then democratic countries provide another example. They have also grown fast. You can’t say that growth is not possible because of democracy. Democracy is our commitment. It is our great legacy, a legacy we simply cannot compromise. Democracy is in our DNA.

Fareed Zakaria: You don’t look at the power of the Chinese government and wish you had some of that authority.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: See, I have seen the strength of democracy. If there were no democracy then someone like me, Modi, a child born in a poor family, how would he sit here? This is the strength of democracy.

Fareed Zakaria: There are many people in the United States and some in India who wish that the United States and India were much closer allies. The world’s oldest democracy, the world’s biggest democracy, but somehow that has never happened and there have always been these frictions and difficulties. Do you think it is possible for the United States and India to develop a genuinely strategic alliance?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: I have a one word answer: YES. And with great confidence I say “yes”. Let me explain. There are many similarities between India and America. If you look at the last few centuries, two things come to light. America has absorbed people from around the world … and there is an Indian in every part of the world. This characterizes both the societies. Indians and Americans have coexistence in their natural temperament. Now, yes, for sure, there have been ups and downs in our relationship in the last century. But from the end of the 20th century to the first decade of the 21st century, has witnessed a big change. Our ties have deepened. India and the United States of America are bound together, by history and by culture. These ties will deepen further.

Fareed Zakaria: So far in your contacts with the Obama administration, you have had several cabinet ministers come here. Do you feel that there is a genuine desire from Washington to try to upgrade the relationship with India substantially?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Relations between India and America should not be seen within the limits of just Delhi and Washington. It’s a much larger sphere. The good thing is that the mood of both Delhi and Washington is in harmony with this understanding. Both sides have played a role in this.

Fareed Zakaria: With regard to Russia’s action in Ukraine. India has not been particularly active. Do you, how do you view Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Firstly, whatever happened there, innocent people died in a plane accident. That’s very saddening. These are not good things for humanity in this age. We have always expressed those views. There is a saying in India that the person who should throw a stone first is the person who has not committed any sins. In the world right now, a lot of people want to give advice. But look within them, and they too have sinned in some way. Ultimately, India’s view point is that efforts need to be made to sit together and talk, and to resolve problems in an ongoing process.

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