India Never Opposed Dialogue with Pakistan: PM Modi

In his first major interview nearly 100 days ahead of general elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on a range of topics—from the Ram Mandir issue to Pakistan, surgical strikes and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said that India, irrespective of the government, has never opposed dialogue with Pakistan, but talks and terrorism cannot go hand-in-hand.

“India, whether UPA or NDA government, never opposed dialogue (with Pakistan). It is the consistent policy of the country, not Modi government or Manmohan Singh government. We only say one thing that amid the noise of bombs and guns, the dialogue cannot be heard. Cross-border terrorism must end. And we are persistently maintaining pressure on this,” said PM Modi in an exclusive interview to news agency ANI broadcast by various TV channels.

PM Modi said India will make all efforts to keep the pressure on Pakistan, but it will be a huge mistake to believe that the country will mend its ways anytime soon.

The prime minister said that whether it is surgical strikes or action at other levels, the Indian government is working out various strategies to keep up the pressure on Pakistan to check terrorism.

PM Modi said that while India favours dialogue and good friendly relations with Pakistan, it is also wary of the fact that the neighbouring country is not going to mend it ways of promoting cross-border terrorism any time soon.

When asked why cross border attacks have not stopped after the surgical strikes PM Modi replied, “Whatever strategy is to be adopted, how to do, is ongoing at appropriate levels, has been happening. 1965 war, war during partition…Ek ladai se Pakistan sudhar jayega, yeh sochne mein bahut badi galti hogi. Pakistan ko sudharne mein abhi aur samay lagega. It will be a huge mistake to believe that Pakistan will mend its ways after a war. It will take a lot of time for Pakistan to mend its ways.

He added that India has created an environment that Pakistan stands isolated in the world.

On a question, whether he will go to Pakistan if invited by his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, Prime Minister said: “We will cross the bridge when we reach there.”

On his government’s foreign policy with regard to China, Prime Minister said India should be judged on the basis of what it did in Doklam. He asserted that nothing has happened with India since then that can be considered as deceit.

During the course of the interview, he spoke on various issues—ranging from RBI governor Urjit Patel’s resignation to demonetisation and a mahagatbandhan, or Grand Alliance, of opposition parties against the BJP and its NDA allies in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Edited excerpts:

On Surgical Strike

“I gave clear orders that whether you succeed or fail, don’t think about that and come back before sunrise. Don’t fall for the lure and prolong it (the operation),” the Prime Minister said.

The surgical strikes were carried out 10 days after the deadly Uri attack that killed 19 Indian soldiers on 18 September 2016.

Modi said that he was anxious throughout the operation as the safety and security of Indian soldiers were paramount to him. “I knew it was a big risk… The biggest consideration for me was the safety of our soldiers.”

“An Army officer informed India of the operation and the same information was passed on to Pakistan as well… But it is unfortunate for the country that the same day, leaders of some parties raised doubts over the surgical strikes. It was expected of Pakistan to deny it to keep their morale intact. But what Pakistan was saying, was being said here too. To lend weight to their views, they were citing the Pakistani version. Politicisation started from that point,” Modi said.

On the Ayodhya dispute

On demands from Hindutava organisations, including the RSS, for a government ordinance to allow construction of a Ram temple, Modi said,”Let the judicial process take its own course. Don’t weigh it in political terms. Let the judicial process be over. After the judicial process is over, whatever be our responsibility as government, we are ready to make all efforts.”

Judicial process was being slowed down because Congress lawyers were creating “obstacles” in the Supreme Court. A solution would be found to this issue under the ambit of the Constitution

On RBI governor Urjit Patel

He himself requested (to resign) on personal reasons. I am revealing for the first time, he was telling me about it (the resignation) for the past 6-7 months. He gave it even in writing. No question of political pressure. He did a good job as RBI governor.

On the Congress

It is a fact that those considered first family, who ran the country for four generations, are out on bail, that too for financial irregularities. It is a big thing. A set of people, who are at their service, are trying to suppress such information and push other narratives.

Even Congress people say Congress is a thought, a culture. When I say Congress-mukt, I want to rid the country from this culture and this sort of thinking. And I say that Congress too needs to be mukt of this Congress culture.

On demonetisation

The demonetisation wasn’t a jhatka (jolt). We had warned people a year before, that if you have such wealth (black money), you can deposit it, pay penalties and you will be helped out. However, they thought Modi too would behave like others so very few came forward voluntarily.

On 2019 Lok Sabha elections

It is going to be Janta versus Gathbandhan. Modi is just a manifestation of public love and blessings (read more).

On Triple Talaq bill

The triple talaq ordinance was brought after the Supreme Court verdict. We have said in our BJP manifesto that a solution would be found to this issue under the Constitution. Most Islamic countries have banned triple talaq. So, it is not a matter of religion or faith. Even in Pakistan, triple talaq is banned. So it is an issue of gender equality, matter of social justice. It is not an issue of faith. So keep the two separate.

On Sabarimala

India is of one opinion that everyone should get justice. There are some temples, which have their own traditions, where men can’t go. And men don’t go… In this, Sabarimala, a woman judge in the Supreme Court has made certain observations. It needs to be read minutely. There is no need to attribute those to any political party. As a woman, she has made some suggestions. There should be a debate on that as well sometimes.

On Ayushman Bharat

The poor are (being) given insurance of up to ₹5 lakh under Ayushman Bharat Yojana. A large of people were suffering (for want of healthcare), today they have got treatment. How can I consider this a failure?

On BJP’s loss in Assembly Elections 2018

In Telangana and Mizoram, nobody gave the BJP any chance. In Chhattisgarh, a clear mandate was given, the BJP lost. But in two states (Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh), there was a hung assembly. Secondly,15 years of anti-incumbency was being fought by our people. We are discussing what was lacking.

On Rahul Gandhi calling GST ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’

The way someone thinks is the way someone talks. Have GST processes not been done taking a consensus with all political parties in the country? The GST process had started when Pranab Mukherjee was the finance minister. The government is in favour of bringing construction related material in 5% GST slab.

On India’s middle class

For the middle class, we will have to change our thinking. The middle class never lives on someone’s mercy. They live with dignity and make immense contribution towards running the country.

On Congress farm loan waivers

To say a lie and mislead, that is what I call a lollipop. Like saying “we have waived all farm loans”. The truth is that nothing like that has happened. Please see their (Congress’s) own circulars, they should not mislead.

On NDA allies

In 2014, we got full majority, but we adhered to the coalition dharma. We took everyone together. Even today when we run the government, there is consensus in decision-making. Our allies wish to grow and we too want them to grow. We do not want that we should grow at cost of allies.

On the Congress allies

The Congress game is different. It is a speciality of Congress-led alliance that allies are those who have come out of Congress after raising their voice against the Congress or emerged because of Congress opposition. So when they approach the Congress, Congress usurps them.

On his tenure as PM

I leave it to people to decide whether satisfied or not with my work. But one thing, I am not surprised, I could neither make the Lutyen’s world part of me or me a part of them.

On Doklam standoff

India should be judged on the basis of its response in Doklam. And nothing has happened with India that can be considered as deceit, but our principled position has been that we want friendly relations with neighbours.

On Christian Michel’s extradition

If a Congress worker turns up to be Christian Michel’s lawyer, then it is worrying. People should be proud a razdaar has come, now there will be legal inquiry and the truth will come out. Instead of that, you are sending lawyers from your party to support Michel.

Rhetoric Galore, Modiji’s Interview Looks Like A Parody: Cong

In his reaction to Modi’s interview, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala termed it as, “bereft of ground reality, ‘Jumlas’ (rhetoric) galore, Modiji’s interview looks like a parody”.

“Nation suffers – DeMo, Gabbar Singh Tax (GST), bank frauds, black money, Rs 15 lakh in every account, corruption in Rafale deal, price rise, national security imperilled, farm distress, and ‘acche din’,” he said.

Congress leader Anand Sharma alleged that it was a “fixed interview”.

In his counter-offensive, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said, “It is a comprehensive, detailed and candid interview in which the PM has spoken on a wide range of issues that have been in the media space for some time. This interview completely demolishes the motivated agenda of opposition parties and vested interests that seek to malign the sterling performance of his government.”

Echoing similar sentiments, another BJP spokesperson, Shahnawaz Hussain, said,”All the false narratives that the opposition was trying to build for many months were demolished by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in just one interview. That’s the power of truth and commitment.”

With Modi indicating that his government is not considering an ordinance to pave the way for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya as long as the matter is in court, BJP ally JD(U) said it feels vindication as it has always maintained that the contentious issue can be resolved either through a judicial process or a consensus among different groups.

“We welcome the prime minister’s comments. It is a victory of our party’s ideology,” JD(U) spokesperson K C Tyagi said.