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Transcript of Prime Minister’s conversation at Council on Foreign Relations

October 01, 2014

Presider: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider: Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations. I am Richard Haass, president of CFR, and I'm delighted today to welcome and introduce a man who needs little introduction, his excellency, Narendra Modi, prime minister of India.

The prime minister, as you all know and as you've seen in our media, has taken New York City by storm. Madison Square Garden has not seen such excitement since the Knicks last won a championship, which was so long ago that few who are witness are still with us today.

Pardon for the parochial reference to our no-longer-successful basketball team.

The prime minister may have come a long way to be with us, but he wasn't the only traveler from India who logged a lot of miles this week. India's Mars Orbiter also arrived at its destination just days ago. My congratulations to the prime minister and to all in his country who made this accomplishment possible.

Prime Minister Modi is the sixth sitting prime minister of India that we here at the Council on Foreign Relations have been fortunate enough to host, and this reflects our longstanding commitment to the study of India, as well as its relations with its neighbors and with the United States.

We are especially proud to host the prime minister during his first visit to the United States since assuming office following a truly historic election 127 days ago. His party won the first absolute majority in parliament in thirty years. Voter turnout -- and all Americans should pay heed to this -- voter turnout was an astounding 550 million individuals, 66 percent of the electorate went to the polls. And the large mandate garnered from this turnout and outcome ignited a buzz of excitement in India and beyond and has led to high expectations for change.

Now, as many of you know, the prime minister ran on a platform that centered on good governance and economic growth and development in India, a message that reflected all he accomplished as chief minister in Gujarat. But the prime minister will also have more than a little opportunity to focus on India's external relations, including those with this country.

As is often remarked upon, India and the United States are the world's two largest democracies. The bilateral relationship is potentially one of the most important for the United States. That said, I use the word "potentially" consciously, because we are not yet there. Our relationship is underdeveloped in terms of trade and investment, energy security, and strategic cooperation on both regional issues, including South and East Asia, as well as transnational issues, including terrorism and climate change.

And the challenge and the opportunity for both countries, for both the United States and India, is to translate all this potential into reality. I look forward to speaking with the prime minister on his plans for India, especially on his plans for its economy, and on the foreign policy and national security challenges he and his countries face.

First, however, the prime minister will deliver some remarks, and he'll do so in Hindi. For those of you who are not yet fluent in Hindi, there are headphones. Afterwards, the prime minister and I will sit down and conversation for a few minutes before we open it up to our members for additional questions. And I want to let everyone know that this meeting is on-the-record.

So with that, again, I want to welcome Prime Minister Modi to Council on Foreign Relations and invite him up here to this podium to deliver his remarks. Sir?

Prime Minister (through translator): Dr. Richard Haass and all the respected guests here, five previous prime ministers have had the opportunity to talk to you in this hall before. I am the number six. For the last three days, I have been in your city, and the encouragement and love and affection that I have got, for that I am very grateful to this city and for U.S., and I express my gratitude from my heart.

Especially the tradition of CFR, which has created its own credibility, and I would like to congratulate it for that, that they do not impose their own ideas. They listen to the ideas, they listen to the ideas of all the aspects, and then present them before the world, and they leave it to the world that these are the different ideas, these are the different aspects. You judge what is right and what's wrong.

I believe that in itself this is not a small thing. Otherwise, there is so much love of an institution, the institution is always concerned about its own image that somewhere or the other, they always try to color their own ideas and impose their own ideas, but CFR has always tried to save itself continuously and has brought all the aspects together and presented them before everybody. This is something for which I would like to congratulate CFR from my heart.

Dr. Haass has had a very good relationship with India. And in the last decade, the relationship between India and U.S. has been given an impetus. And in that, Dr. Haass has played a very important role. When Vajpayee was in government, at that time, he had played a very important role. And the entire government has always remembered his contribution in a very positive way, and even today I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Haass for this.

As Dr. Haass just told us that after thirty years for the first time in India a government has been elected with full absolute majority. And that party which was always in the opposition, such a party has come to power. And for the first time in India, such a person has got the opportunity to become the prime minister who was born in independent India. So far, all the prime ministers that have been in our country were born in the British era.

And that is why I'm a person who did not get the opportunity to see the days of slavery. I was born and I -- as soon as I was born, I took my first breath in the democracy. And in each breath of mine, there is democracy. And because of my firm faith in democracy, today a person of very humble grounding has come to the highest office. This is the power of democracy.

This is the first time that we got absolute majority. And because of that, almost two generations who had been sitting there keeping all their expectations and aspirations, suddenly there has been a boil, and every single youth in India who is about forty to forty-five year old today, from the age of ten to the age of forty, he has only seen instability, disappointment, that kind of an atmosphere is all he has seen.

And when this situation has come, it is natural, his expectations have risen a lot. And to fulfill those expectations is our duty. India is a very wide country. To understand its election is also a very difficult task. And as books are written on elections in the Western countries, there is no such tradition in India so far. And because of that, the color and the way the elections are held and its perimeter, everything -- unless and until somebody sees elections from close angle, he will not understand all of that, and perhaps in the world, it's such a large-scale elections taking place and getting votes from so many people and become victorious is a huge task, but the people in India have given their blessings.

And in this election, we came with two major subjects. One was a request for good governance, and the second was development. We agree that the problems -- the solution to all the problems cannot be found unless we can focus on these two things.

Earlier, we used to have a habit that, you know, just make the smaller sections happy, just throw them some loaves, and keep your vote bank intact, and play with politics. That's a very easy solution, a very easy way, and to stay in politics, the people in India were getting used to that.

But when we talk of good governance and development and getting up, raising yourself up from smaller issues, is a difficult thing. But why people accepted that is because the youth generation, the young generation in India, they're thinking, their way to think has changed. They do not want to live anymore in small pieces. The treatment that they have received so far, they are not happy with that, and they want something new.

And India is a very fortunate country. It is the oldest civilization in the world. Besides, it's also the most youthful country in the world. It's a very unique combination that we have. We have a very great heritage, and we are also the youngest country in the world. Sixty-five percent of our population is under thirty-five year old.

And the aspiration of this youth, the ideas that they have in their mind, it's a result of that that such a huge political transformation has taken place. It is definite that in politics stability in itself is a very big message. We know that if we have stability, a common man will have confidence that now something will go on the basis of the policies and laws and we'll be OK.

So by taking a decision to follow the policies, we have made -- we have put a foundation -- and people themselves are responsible for putting that foundation for development. When I say good governance, I believe that there should be minimum government and maximum government, because to run such a huge country, there are so many traditions, rules, regulations, hierarchies, all these things are there that become obstacles in their way. And the government's own order becomes obstacles sometimes, problems sometimes. My objective is to see how to make them easier, how to make them speedy, and I'm working in that direction. How to bring transparency, that's what is our effort.

We are emphasizing on e-governance, electronic governance. And because of that, there is a possibility -- a full possibility of effective government, an easy government, we are emphasizing on that, too. And secondly is development. For development, we have two aspects. One, on a world level, we should come on par with developing countries. And at the same time, the poorest of the poor person of my country, the last person in my country, how to bring transformation in his life, and when we talk about India, there's one aspect that we forget about, and it's a demand of the time that we talk about it, and that is new middle class, people who have come out of the clutches of poverty, but they haven't reached the middle class yet, and now they do not want to go back into poverty. This is a huge bulk.

Now, we want to address this new middle class. If we can address new middle class, and we can bring changes in their economic life, then we can make sure that they are very firm, they're very sure about getting out of poverty. But if we bring disappointment to them, and unfortunately, if they once again go back towards poverty, then a poor person will never have the ambition to even get out of poverty, because they will believe, OK, you know, this is what God has destined for me and then I should just follow this as is and I should just accept my situation.

I want to change this. And for that, what plans can we have for this section is what we are emphasizing at this time. When I say that we should go -- want to go at global level where we can increase our growth rate, our economy, we want to expedite our economy, it's better that in the first three months, we are going from 4.5 percent to 5.7 percent. We been successful in increasing it by 1.3 percent.

And the main reason behind that is that after the government was elected, there has been an atmosphere of confidence, of trust. And because of this confidence and trust atmosphere, it gives us the momentum. Sometimes if a person is sick and if he's sick in a different city, unless and until he finds his own doctor, he cannot recover. He's worried. He needs his own doctor.

And it is his own confidence, his own trust in that treatment that gets him out of that disease, and that's where the confidence with which people have formed this government. Now, they have formed this government and they have some aspirations and ambitions that they want to fulfill, and because of that, there has been a confidence that has arisen in the hearts of people. And trust and confidence is doing a big, huge psychological thing. And there is a magnetive effect, magnetic effect all around, and there is an atmosphere of race towards development, towards growth.

And if we want to come next to the developing countries, this is what is important. We want that our economy should move forward on the basis of three pillars: agriculture, manufacturing, and service sector. And we want to balance all three. In our entire economy, 30 percent contribution should be from agriculture, 30 percent from manufacturing, and 30 percent from service sector. If, you know, there is a point or so here and there, then the country's economy should not suffer. This is the direction in which we want to go.

When we talk about manufacturing, we talk -- we try to create a trust in make in India. We are telling the world, make in India. Come join us and make in India. And I tell the people in India that you should also do such manufacturing that your product should work and be in demand in the world economy.

That's why I say zero defect, zero effect. Our products should be such that it has zero defect and our process of our product should be such that it has zero effect on the environment. And that's why zero defect, zero effect is something that we want to carry on with our manufacturing process and product. And, therefore, we want to create our own place in the world.

When I talk about make in India, people from the world are here in every -- every entrepreneur, every industrialist has to make -- do manufacturing, and there is market available, but he's only worried how to do low-cost production, how to get effective governance, how to have security for this investment, and how he gets the proper human resources for his own employees and for his officers, how he gets the quality of life. If we pay attention to these things, then the foreign investors can come and invest there.

India is a young country, and we are paying attention in skill development. In skill development, I have two aspects. One, by the year 2020, the world is going to need a lot of workforce. World is going to need such a huge workforce that it's a matter of concern where the workforce will come. India is a young country. The requirement -- the workforce requirement of the world can be meted out by India. It has that potential. The world will need a lot of workforce. And we want to do that work.

Similarly, we also want to do that skill development in which our entrepreneurs are -- get ready and those should be the people who should be job creators. Small people with small industries or work can become job creators. And then, in that way, there should be a network of small industries and our economy should go forward. This is the direction in which we want to go.

And I'm sure that the steps that we have taken so far, those will have a direct impact, and in the last three months, the small short duration of three months, as Dr. Haass just told you, that in -- on Mars planet, we have done a big achievement. You will be happy to know that in India, in different places, in small factories, small parts were manufactured, and our space scientists collected all of them.

And in a very small expenditure, we were able to reach Mars in a very small expenditure. If I talk about expenditure, a Hollywood movie is more expensive in its production than this. A Hollywood movie, even less expense than a Hollywood movie. We reached 650 million miles of journey to Mars, and we have reached there, and India is the first country in the world which was successful in its maiden attempt, in its first attempt. People have taken -- countries have taken seven to eight attempts, but India is the first country which was successful its very first attempt.

So -- and people have the competence to manufacture things. And this is what we have told the world. People in manufacturing sector, no, they don't need to see anything else, they should just take our -- they should just study our experience on Mars, and then after doing that case study, they can say, yes, we can go to Mars.

Such a huge achievement in such a small expenditure and with skill development, they'll understand if a person brings that product, he can do it. And that is why make in India mission is something we are going forward with. We are emphasizing on skill development and we are trying to bring a lot of change in our laws. We have done labor reforms, also.

I know in a country like India, from the political point of view, it means sometimes we're not very appropriate. But the mandate that people have given us, looking at that, I believe that I have to take my country into the direction of progress. It's my duty. And therefore, even if it is not politically needed, I would still take very responsible steps, and ultimately that is going to go in favor of everybody. We do not want that anybody should face any problems.

And if you have to do any labor reforms, you should do it. When it comes to central government, we will give you full cooperation between central and state government. India is the federal government, has a federal structure. We have started the governance on the basis of team India, between center and states. Why not they work together? If a company wants to come in and invest in a country, it comes and talks New Delhi, and Delhi doesn't have to do anything on its own. It has to send it to a different state.

But if the people in the states do not know what to do, then they do not give a right response. But if the central and the states work together as a team, then everybody will believe that I go to Delhi or go to a headquarter in any state, my work will never face any obstacles. There is an atmosphere of confidence now, and that is why team India is working and we have brought complete change in our working system and we are trying to move forward with that confidence.

Similarly, ease of business. I know sometimes I say, in Hindu mythology, that if you go to four pilgrimages, then you will get -- achieve moksha, that is salvation. But in our country, a file can travel to thirty-two places, but it will still not reach the right place. It will not reach salvation.

So I told them, the -- how to move the files quickly, and for that, we have changed the process. If we have to fill a form, people will have ten-page-long archaic forms. And for each thing, they had to fill in a new form. So I said this will not go on anymore.

I told all my officers, there should be a one-page form and no -- never ask anybody anything else. That means people feel these are very small things, but we all know, no matter how big and huge the lock is, it will only open with a small key, and that's why small things can open doors to bigger things. And emphasizing that, we are trying to move our system forward towards progress.

About foreign direct investment, we have taken initiatives in our very first budget. The railway system in our country, people have not paid attention to that. But there is nothing bigger than this for economic development. This is the second-largest railway line in the world.

If so much work in the railways and we need private investment in that. For many years, it was not taking place. A lot of industrial houses people met me today, and they said we have heard a lot, but nothing really happened. I've said, you've heard so far? Now this has happened. This has taken place. We have made provision in our budget officially. We have allowed 100 percent FDI, that we want to upgrade railways, that we want to increase the speed of railways, that we want to expand railways, and that in India we want that railway should fulfill the main spirit in India for travel.

And I believe that trillions and trillions of dollars of businesses there in India's railways itself. It is linked with India's railways. And that's such a job for which you don't really need rocket science. If people from a good factory come, they can work towards it. I have the manpower, and you have the money. I have talent, you have business experience. If we merge both of these, we can fulfill this.

And 1.25 billion people's lives can only change with these things. And we are trying to bring those changes. Even for environment, we are equally conscious. When I was the chief minister in Gujarat, it was the fourth government in the world which had a separate department for climate change, and we gave a lot of boost to climate change.

Eighty percent of solar energy, clean energy was manufactured in Gujarat, where I was the chief minister. So we have emphasized everything. Keeping environment in mind, we've also taken the task of cleaning the River Ganges, 2,500 miles long Ganges, and 30 percent of the people are impacted by this River Ganges. Their life is attached to this. The economy of the villages of those areas are connected with this. Our agriculture sector is based on the River Ganges and north.

And whether it's Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, all these areas are such where it is our first priority to first against poverty and keep taking this task in mind, we have moved forward. Of course, Ganges will be cleaned. Environment and production will also be paid attention to. But at the same time, those poor areas, we want that there should be -- this should become a big basis for generating economy there.

And I want to create a public movement, a revolution there to clean Ganges. And I'm going to invite people from all over the world, people who believe -- who have faith in the River Ganges, I'm going to invite them also to come. But the work which is the most difficult work, that -- how to make it environment-friendly, we are paying emphasis on that.

And in a way, economic development, the concern about environment, skill development of the youth, expanding the possibilities of employment, bringing improvement in governance, working towards the effective governance, we are moving ahead with all these things. But along with that, there is no such country which can just progress on its own. The world has changed. And we have to stay within the global requirements, and we have to maintain our balance with the global flows. We have to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with the global leaders.

Nobody can be a master of his own mind. We have to work together. And the philosophy of India that drives it and a country that works or moves in the shadow of philosophy sustains for a longer duration. Those who work with ideology will one day or the other topple.

Ideology has its limitations. Philosophy is unlimited. And that is why the philosophy of India that the entire world is a family, that's the philosophy we are taking with us to move forward, and then when we move forward, we adopt that.

With our neighboring countries, we want friendship. On my swearing-in ceremony, many prime ministers have had their swearing-in ceremonies. I was not the first one. But this was the first such swearing-in ceremony where all the country heads were present from the SAARC countries. I had invited all the SAARC leaders.

And in such a short duration, as soon as I came in, our neighboring countries I went and met them. I went to Nepal. Nobody had gone to Nepal in seventeen years. I went to Nepal. I went to Bhutan. And I want -- I'm really still busy making friendship with my neighboring countries, and I'm sure that we can all share our joys and sorrows.

Recently, there was a flood in Jammu and Kashmir, and people had a lot of problems after that. And the -- there was the fact of flood in Pakistan, also, and I told it publicly that we are helping in Kashmir. And on the other side, across the border, people are facing the ravages of flood. And on the basis of humanity, we would like to help them, also.

With this background only can we live. The friendship should be very deep, and that will be better for us, too. I have announced that we are going to launch a SAARC satellite. I have already told my scientists that with the help of that SAARC satellite, we will progress in health, education, weather prediction,forecast. This SAARC satellite is going to help, free, to all our neighboring countries. So we have thought about a SAARC satellite.

So we are taking all those initiatives so that all our SAARC countries can work together and progress. And the efforts that are taking place to eradicate poverty we may also be able to contribute towards that.

China is also in our neighborhood. The entire world believes the 21st century is a century of Asia. Some people believe that this belongs to India. Some believe that it belongs to China. But nobody has a problem in believing who the 21st century belongs to. Whether it belongs to India or China is something that people are debating in the world.

But one benefit that comes from India is that we have three things that the world does not have. In no country in the world, no country has all these three things together. One may have one or second or the third, but not all. One is democracy. The other is demographic division. And the third is demand.

And all these three things, we have all these three things in the democratic aspect. As much as U.S. can take pride being the biggest -- being the oldest democracy, India can take pride in being the biggest democracy, in demography. Let's see...we have 1.25 billion population. There's so much demand there, and there is no such country which has both the possibilities, and that's why the possibility is there that India will stand with a lot of competence and will work towards the good and the well-being of the world.

I have said this in the recent years, as well, after I came here, that within one month, I had said that in the month of September itself, I went to Japan, I went -- I met the Australian and the Chinese premiers. Now I'm meeting the American premier. I have met a lot of distinguished people in U.N. At such a speed I'm working at the global level, India has started this global attempt. And I believe firmly that we have to live together in harmony. We have to work shoulder-to-shoulder with each other in complete bonhomie.

And even in the midst of problems, difficulties, we have to keep our -- we have to engage in conversation, and we have to believe that there is coexistence. If we keep crying about our problems and brooding over it, then we cannot move forward. We have problems on border with China, but even after that, we have improved our trade relations, our political relations, our diplomatic relations with China, and it is our effort that the problem -- this one problem about which the whole world is worried and India is worried for the last forty years, is terrorism.

The problem of terrorism, this danger of terrorism needs to be taken very seriously. And I have to say it with regret that number of countries in the world are -- have never been able to understand the herculean and the draconian form of terrorism. I had come in 1993 to State Department, and I was talking about India's terrorism.

And State Department officials were telling me that this is your own law and order problem. I was trying to convince them that this is terrorism, but they were saying, no, this is law and order problem. They said, you don't know how to run a government. You don't have order.

And I kept trying to convince them -- we had only fifteen minutes. We talked for one-and-a-half hours, but I could not convince them. And when in '93, when I came, they said, why don't you sit together? And then we again sat together. And this time, they were telling me, what is terrorism.

And they were telling me this because, on trade center, there had been a big explosion. That means that unless and until we have a bomb explosion, we don't understand what terrorism is. Because of terrorism, India -- the world is facing a lot of problems. It's going through a lot of pain.

We have faced this problem for forty years. And there is no limitation to this problem. It doesn't follow any country. It does not know which country it will go and when. It's hard to estimate that. It's such a deformity which we cannot ever even imagine. We cannot even imagine when we see it on TV a journalist's throat is being slit. And we are talking about 21st century humanity. Such a heinous crime is being committed in front of us. It can shake any one of us.

And as long as we don't understand this, we cannot take care of terrorism based on diplomacy only. Terrorism is an enemy of humanity, and anyone who believes in humanity, they all need to come together.

The borders of the country, the casteism, and the communalism and all these things, we have to get over them, above them, believe in humanity, and we all need to come together and unite ourselves. Only then can we challenge the problem of terrorism.

And for that, to challenge the problem of terrorism, no matter what the resources, there is only one single way. And we have to follow this one single way, and the world should understand this, that who all believe in -- in humanity should come join their hands. We cannot weigh terrorism in different balances, like this is good terrorism or bad terrorism. If the country that I like has terrorism, I don't care, I should just close my eyes. And if the country that I don't like has terrorism, then I should do something.

No, that's not how it should be. Terrorism is terrorism. There is no such thing as good or bad terrorism. And if we brand it like good and bad terrorism, then the terrorists are going to take benefit of that. Today, the condition of West Asia that we see, they had prosperity in the last three decades if we see. They were so far ahead in their economy, but look at what the situation is now.

And that is why this -- these activities of humanity's enemies, for that -- for the world has to work together in bonhomie, together with each other, and only then can we save humanity, and when humanity walks on those, in their path, we talk about the benefit and welfare of everybody.

We talk about that tradition and that philosophy. We are those people who had only learned one mantra in the Vedic (inaudible), Vedic era, which is being said in Sanskrit here, and it means that we are the people we want, that everyone should be prosperous, and physically everybody should be healthy, everyone should be prosperous.

This is the philosophy with which we have grown. Not only do we say that people who live in India should be prosperous. No, that's not what we believe in. And that's why we believe and like the prosperity of the world. And with that ideology, we are moving forward.

I am sure that India will move very fast towards progress. We are trying to encourage tourism. And I invite each one of you, please come and visit India. It's a place to be seen, to be visited. This is my mantra. Tourism unites. Terrorism divides. That's why I want that we should all meet each other and we should see -- we should see each other and get to know each other. And the more we know each other, the more we will be benefited.

I got the opportunity to come in between all of you, to meet all you. I'm very grateful to you. Thank you very much.

Presider: Well, I want to begin by thanking the prime minister for those generous comments about this organization, about the Council on Foreign Relations, the overly generous comments about myself, and I want to thank him for that extraordinary tour de raison. I couldn't also help but think that India's rocket may have reached Mars in less time than it took to go crosstown in New York this past week, but that's a problem here.

Let me begin, sir, with a -- with a question on -- begin with the economics, on trade, which as you know is often cited as one of the principal locomotives or engines of economic growth. Yet India, since you became prime minister, decided not to go ahead and ratify the so-called trade facilitation agreement.

And as also India -- also India is for the moment outside both APEC and the TPP negotiations. So could you say something about your view of trade and whether the domestic politics of India will allow you to pursue a liberal trade agenda?

Prime Minister: (OFF-MIKE)

TRANSLATOR: There's no simultaneous translation (OFF-MIKE)

Presider: OK. OK.

Prime Minister: (OFF-MIKE)

(UNKNOWN): Can you please translate? Can you please translate?

Prime Minister (through translator): ... and the world has no problem with the fact that we have to take a positive stand with food security.

Presider: Do we have a microphone for this gentleman here? Right here. No, we got one right here, just to sort of get the gist, and then I think we'll have simultaneous from here on.

Question: OK.

Presider: It's on. It's on.

Prime Minister (through translator): All right, thank you. India is not at all opposed to the trade facilitation agreement of the WTO. We are absolutely clear in our mind with regard to our commitment to the WTO agreement on the trade facilitation. We also recognize very well that we have to work with the international community and the rest of the world on this agreement.

I am personally against following populist policies or even populist economic approaches. But one must recognize that India has a large population of poor people whose requirements of food security, who requirements of food availability cannot be ignored. As a result, I have always maintained -- and India has said -- that the agreement on the food security and the trade facilitation has to go hand-in-hand and together.

It cannot be that you do this first and we will see the other later on. So we are very much committed to the trade facilitation, but we have to ensure simultaneous progress on the food security front, also.

Presider: I have one other question I want to raise in the economic realm, which deals with electricity. As I understand it, several hundred million Indians do not have adequate access to electricity. And the question a lot of people are asking is, how can these people come to enjoy a middle-class life and in the process not set in motion economics that have a clearly negative impact on climate change, given the amount of carbon that would be emitted?

Prime Minister (through translator): This is right that today electricity has become an important part of our lives. Electricity is no more -- no longer a luxury. It's a requirement of our lives. And 24/7, we are committed to get 24/7 electricity for everyone.

In our manifesto, we have said it, and we have said it in our agenda, also, that in the next five years, each village in India will get electricity, power supply, 24/7, and this is possible. And the way we have worked in the energy sector, we are emphasizing on clean energy. For solar, we are bringing the rooftop policy. And for that, now there is no possibility that there will be shortage of electricity in India.

As far as climate change is concerned, you will be very surprised to know, as I said before, that when I was in Gujarat, Al Gore has written a book Inconvenient Truth. And I have written a book called Convenient Action. And I've written it on environment. And what is possible with the help of political will, environment-friendly work can be done, and how it can be done is what I have proved in that book.

And that's why development and climate are not enemies. If you think so, that's wrong. We will streamline this carefully and make it move forward.

Presider: Sir, India is by many counts the second-largest Muslim country in the world, in terms of population. Only Indonesia is larger. And as you know, from your time here, Americans are obviously seized with the challenge posed by the group ISIS.

So one of the questions that's come up is whether you're worried that the unrest sweeping large parts of the Arab and Muslim worlds might spread to India. And to the extent that you are, what are your plans to reduce your country's susceptibility for -- to radicalization and even violence?

Prime Minister (through translator): As far as India is concerned, no matter which community or religion the person belongs to, there is a basic philosophy which drives everyone. And India's philosophy is -- the emblem is Mahatma -- Mahatma Gandhi, where we believe in nonviolence. That's in our very nature.

And you must have seen that there is so much terrorist activity that took place in our country. We are so bothered by terrorism. But inside of all this terrorism, this terrorist activity has been exported to our country. It's not homegrown. And that is why the Muslims in India -- once CNN had asked me that Al-Qaeda is saying such-and-such things and what will happen? And I said, the -- Indian Muslims will fail Al-Qaeda.

Presider: We hope so. Let me turn to foreign policy for a minute, and then I'll open it up, which is, for much of the Cold War, India's articulated foreign policy was one of nonalignment, and there was always the reference to the five principles of coexistence. But as you know, and as everybody knows, the world is no longer aligned with the end of the Cold War.

So what is India's compass? What is India's intellectual approach to this post-Cold War world when it comes to its foreign policy?

Prime Minister (through translator): If we go towards 18th and the 19th century, the entire era was an era of revolution. Every ruler which -- whatever his parameter was, he wanted to fight for expansion and for -- if you look at the history of two centuries, it's a history of revolution, of fighting, and after that, the history that came is the revolution -- is the history of groups, one group versus the other group.

And now the time has changed very rapidly. The 21st century is not going to run on groups or groupism. They are irrelevant now. Each country is interdependent now. All the countries in the world need each other. We have already entered an era where each country is dependent on the other.

And now not with the help of groups, but with coexistence and believing in coexistence we have to move and march forward. Whether we want it or we don't want, this has already taken place. And all the countries, whether they are in G20, they will also be in G4. Those who are in G7 will also be there in G9.

So you can see that there has never been such a group which in singular. Everybody is finding place in everywhere. So the world has changed. We should not believe in that that we used to believe in old times. And this is an interdependent world. We have to accept that it's an interdependent world. The world is moving very fast. We have been linked by technology. Our necessities are -- requirements have linked us with each other. And we have accepted a new change, and that's why all the old parameters are not going to be functional anymore.

Presider After this meeting here in New York, you're soon heading to Washington. You'll meet with the president tonight. You've got meetings tomorrow. I expect one word you're going to hear again and again and again is the word partnership to describe the U.S.-Indian relationship.

So my question for you is whether you are comfortable with that word and, to the extent that you are or are not, what is your definition of partnership when it comes to India and the United States?

Prime Minister (through translator): First of all, it's not necessary that we should have comfort in everything. Even in husband and wife, there's never 100 percent comfort.

Presider: We could leave your answer there.

Prime Minister (through translator): But in spite of that, for a very long time, there is a binding for a long time. There are a few things which connect India and U.S. The biggest thing is democracy, openness. The openness we see in society, we see that in the culture of both countries. And, thirdly, you see in America the entire world has come to stay in America. This is a part of America's character that it assimilates everybody.

And Indian is settled all over the world. So India also has the power to assimilate everybody in its country. So these are the characters that link us, that connect us.

The third thing is economic. You know, it's the trade relations. Sometimes it's in your benefit, sometimes it's in our relation. It's a give-and-take formula based on which we work. But both the countries have a faith in democracy, a respect towards democracy which connects us.

Presider: We started a few minutes late, so if it's OK, we'll go on a few minutes. And one of the traditions at the Council on Foreign Relations -- again, you were extraordinarily generous about this organization -- is our members get a chance to ask a few questions.

So why don't I turn to them? These questions will be tougher than the ones from me, so I should warn you. Ken Juster, I saw you had -- if people just wait for the microphone and keep it as short as possible and introduce themselves.

Question: Hi, Ken Juster with the firm Warburg Pincus. I just wanted to follow up on Richard's last question on the partnership between the United States and India. You've described what features we have in common, but do you have -- another word I think you'll hear tomorrow is strategic partnership. And do you have a vision for that partnership and how the United States and India can work together on global issues and regional issues?

Prime Minister (through translator): India and U.S. together, it's one thing that we are working in the direction of finding peace. But on economic development, we are going to be talking about when we meet the research that takes place here, on that research, how it can be used. Maybe it can be used with the other countries, like India, and maybe there is more possibility of bringing it on Earth, there is more utility there, and we can work on that, as well.

And how we look at the world, our perspective towards the world, not based on the utilization alone. I still believe that the U.S. and India relation and India's relations for the benefit of U.S. and U.S. relations for its own, instead of doing that, we should believe how we can work together for each other's benefit. And if we can work like that, then our strength can be very beneficial for the whole world. And today, when I met Mr. Kerry, I explained that to Mr. Kerry in great length.

Presider: Is Afghanistan one of the areas you think we can work on together in a productive way? Is Afghanistan one of the challenges we can work on?

Prime Minister (through translator): Afghanistan is a very big example. It's actually an example. A lot of people from India live in Afghanistan, and in a way, with India and Afghanistan partnership, it has -- Afghanistan has played a very big role. And even we want that Afghanistan should be stable and democratic way. It should march towards its voyage of development.

And the security measures with which America has helped, there has been stability created there. And our efforts have been -- even today in the new government that has come up there after the elections, we are trying to coordinate between the government and the people. And India and U.S. have worked and tried to create that there.

And Afghanistan has marched towards a good result. But we have requested to America that the defense withdrawal subject, please do not repeat the mistake that you did in Iraq, because after such a rapid withdrawal in Iraq, what happened there, you know, so the withdrawal process in Afghanistan should be very slow, let it stand on its own, and only then it can stop from Taliban emerging its head there. That's why India and U.S. have worked together to bring prosperity in Afghanistan.

Presider: Professor Cohen, who's one of this country's leading China experts.

Question: Mr. Prime Minister, you set an admirable example for the world in June when you accepted the arbitration decision of a law of the sea tribunal, even though it awarded most of the Bay of Bengal that was in dispute to Bangladesh. Would you be willing to submit your land border problems with China to arbitration or adjudication? The Chinese government has thus far rejected the use of arbitration or adjudication. The Philippines is now putting China to the test. Would India be willing to do something similar?

Prime Minister (through translator):
China and India, both are competent to find a solution with a dialogue. China and India are in direct talks, and that is why there is no need for a separate arbitration. And I have had very good relations with China personally. China president was here, met with me, and I believe that there is border dispute, yes. And in several things, on several subjects, we have talked about and we will take it forward, but we both believe that we can come together and find a solution. That's why we do not need an arbitration.

Presider: Yes, ma'am?

Question: (OFF-MIKE)

Presider: It's on.

QUESTION: It's on, hi. I'm Terra Lawson-Remer, formerly a fellow here the Council and now legal and campaign director with Avaaz, a global civic organization with over 38 million members worldwide. You've often said there's no compromise on the dignity of women. So given the enormous potential of Indian women and the challenges they face every day, what is your vision for a made in India approach to ending gender-based violence and inequality? Is your government exploring the establishment of a prime ministerial task force or any other concrete milestones to be a global leader on this issue that's so fundamental to the lives of so many?

Presider: This may also be a good moment to introduce both your foreign minister and your foreign

secretary. Prime Minister (through translator): I'm grateful to you that the initiative that I have taken, you have talked about it. There are many parts of the world where the chief cannot become -- cannot be a woman. There are many places -- many countries where a woman cannot become a president or prime minister.

But India and Asian countries have had women prime ministers and heads of (inaudible).My foreign minister is a woman, Ms. Sushma Swaraj. She's sitting here. My foreign secretary is also a woman, Sujatha Singh. And in my cabinet, 25 percent are women. They are the cabinet ministers.

But this is not all. For women empowerment, the first and foremost thing is girl child education. We are dedicated for girl child education, and I would like to share my experience in Gujarat. When I was the chief minister in Gujarat, when I came to understand about girl child education, when I was the first-time -- when I first time became the chief minister, it was very painful for me that this situation of girl child education was such that the schools start in -- on 15th June, and the temperature there at that time is 45 degree. Here at 24 degree, you feel hot, and we were living in 45 degree.

So on June 13th, 14th and 15th, I would go to the villages myself, and all my cabinet ministers will go with me. All my members of legislative assembly will go with me. And I would beg people at each door. And I would tell them that in your -- when I beg you, please, give me a promise that you will educate your daughters, and I would take those girls to school myself, and I was successful in having 100 percent enrollment. This was 100 percent enrollment in which I was successful.

I did not get stuck there. Wherever I went, a public function, people would give me a gift. And I would auction that gift. So when I came out of Gujarat, in that auction, I got 78 crore rupees. And I used that amount as a gift to the government for girl child education.

So this is my government's agenda. Educate your daughter and save your daughter. And we are working in that direction. There are many countries in the world where in order to get voting, women have -- have had to go through a lot of revolution. Even developed countries, women had to fight for getting voter rights. But in India, women have 30 percent reservation in election, no matter which body it is. It is compulsory to have 30 percent women. This is the kind of forward-looking country that we are.

Presider: Farooq Kathwari?

Question: I'm Farooq Kathwari, CEO of Ethan Allen and originally born in (inaudible) Kashmir. You mentioned about the Jammu and Kashmir floods. So our families, of course, have been tremendously and greatly affected. So my question and clear request is that the government of India should allow international organizations to come in. There's a tremendous amount of bureaucracy in allowing international organizations to help.

Prime Minister (through translator): First of all, many countries in the world have sent assistance to Kashmir. When there was an earthquake in Gujarat, we also had received a lot of assistance, and it's a very good thing in the entire world, that if there is a natural calamity anywhere, all the countries send help. When there was an earthquake in Pakistan, I was the first one, because I was in Gujarat and in the neighborhood, and we had sent the help to Pakistan. This is something that humanity has to do.

Presider: I have a quick last question, because I know we're behind schedule, which is, as you come into this job, you've now been there for four months. Is there another leader, whether India or in another country, who you say that's someone who set a model that I would like to follow in my position as prime minister?

Prime Minister (through translator): If I say that, then that will be an injustice to a lot of people, because there are so many people and I have learned so much from everybody. If I give you one name, fifty other people will be upset. So that's why all the experienced people that are there, I have to learn something from everybody. And after learning from everybody, you have to do go for my country. So who is the best, I have to bring that in my country.

Presider: Mr. Prime Minister, I learned something from you in how not to answer a question just now.

Thank you very much.


The above transcript is as provided by Council on Foreign Relations(CFR) and can be accessed here:
A Conversation with Narendra Modi

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