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PM Modi on Newsweek cover, first Indian PM since Indira Gandhi: From China, minorities, economic growth, to Ram Mandir, details of the interview

After Indira Gandhi, PM Modi became the second Indian prime minister to appear on the cover of Newsweek magazine with this interview. The cover of the April 1966 issue of Newsweek magazine featured former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

In an interview with New York-based Newsweek magazine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed a plethora of issues, including Indian politics, coming Lok Sabha elections, economic policies, China, the global economy, Ayodhya Ram Mandir, Mann Ki Baat, minority rights, Kashmir and much more.

PM Modi was interviewed by the New York-based magazine where he discussed several India related issues. He responded to written questions from Newsweek and had a 90-minute interview later. After Indira Gandhi, PM Modi became the second Indian prime minister to appear on the cover of Newsweek magazine with this interview. The cover of the April 1966 issue of Newsweek magazine featured former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Speaking about his much popular radio program Mann Ki Baat, PM Modi said that he channelises his positive energy into this program. PM Modi opined that communication with the people of the country is a two-way street. “A leader should have the ability to connect to the grassroots and get unfiltered feedback”, he said.

Notably, in Mann Ki Baat radio program, PM Modi shares his ideas, vision, and some interesting stories he comes across, with the general masses. The Prime Minister often highlights the grassroots change-makers to inspire the citizens to become ambassadors of positive change and contribute to nation-building. 

Mann Ki Baat is broadcast in 11 foreign languages, including French, Chinese, Indonesian, Tibetan, Burmese, Baluchi, Arabic, Pashtu, Persian, Dari, and Swahili, in addition to 22 Indian languages and 29 dialects. Mann Ki Baat is broadcast by over 500 centres of All India Radio. 

PM Modi on lessons to learn from the success of UPI

Highlighting the success of the UPI digital payments system, PM Modi asserted that technology should be open, interoperable, scalable and secure. He also advocated for the democratisation of technology.

“UPI is a fine example of Indian innovation at its best. I see UPI as a simple tool that broke countless barriers, from financial barriers to geographical barriers. It has opened the world of digital transactions to the person at the last mile,” PM Modi said.

Notably, in 2023, UPI processed 117.6 billion transactions in total. According to data, last year’s UPI processed a little over Rs 182 lakh crore in total value over the payments infrastructure. Between January and December of 2023, there was an increase in UPI monthly transactions of more than 49%.

“Human-centered development”

On India being compared to Japan and China in terms of economic growth, PM Modi said that instead of comparison with other countries, his focus is on “human-centred development” woven around India’s traditional values. 

“India has run the world’s largest poverty-eradication drive in the last 10 years and has pulled 250 million people out of poverty,” PM Modi said.

Notably, the Modi government has pulled out over 24.82 crore people from multi-dimensional poverty in the last nine years, reducing poverty from 29.17% in 2013-14 to 11.28% in 2022-23 i.e. a reduction of 17.89 percentage points.

Modi on QUAD and China

Speaking about QUAD and countering the growing influence on China, PM Modi said that the plurilateral framework comprising India, Australia, Japan, and the USA is not essentially China-centric. He said, “We are present in different combinations in different groups. Like many other international groupings, like SCO, BRICS and others, QUAD is also a group of like-minded countries working on a shared positive agenda. It has established itself as an important platform for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.”

PM Modi hails India as the natural choice for supply chain diversification

PM Modi asserted that India being a democratic polity and global economic growth engine, is a natural choice for those looking to diversify their supply chains.

The Prime Minister also highlighted the economic reforms including Goods and Service Tax (GST), corporate tax reduction, bankruptcy code, reforms in labour laws, and relaxation in FDI norms. PM Modi asserted that the country under his leadership has significantly improved in ease of doing business.

PM Modi on bilateral relations with China

Regarding the relations between India and China, PM Modi said relations with China are significant for India. He also stressed the need to address the border issues to restore normalcy in bilateral interactions. He added that peace in Indo-China border areas can be upheld through constructive bilateral dialogue at diplomatic and military levels.

“It is my belief that we need to urgently address the prolonged situation on our borders so that the abnormality in our bilateral interactions can be put behind us. Stable and peaceful relations between India and China are important for not just our two countries but the entire region and world. I hope and believe that through positive and constructive bilateral engagement at the diplomatic and military levels, we will be able to restore and sustain peace and tranquillity in our borders,” he said.

Modi on Pakistan

Over the years, Prime Minister Modi has adopted an unannounced policy of not giving unnecessary importance to Pakistan. When asked about Indo-Pakistan ties, PM Modi kept it short and simple said that “India has always advocated for advancing peace, security and prosperity in our region in an atmosphere free from terror and violence.”

On being asked about former Pakistani PM Imran Khan’s imprisonment, PM Modi refused to comment saying that it is Pakistan’s internal matter.

Modi on Article 370 abrogation and the changed picture of Jammu and Kashmir

On criticism of the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, Prime Minister Modi said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir now have a new hope in their lives. He added that people are reaping peace dividend. Modi pointed out the sharp decline in terrorist attacks and the unprecedented boom in tourism in Jammu and Kashmir.

“I would encourage you to visit Jammu and Kashmir to witness firsthand the sweeping positive changes happening on the ground. Do not go by what I or others tell you. I went to Jammu and Kashmir just last month. For the first time, people have a new hope in their lives. The process of development, good governance, and empowerment of the people is to be seen to be believed,” PM Modi said.

He added, “People are reaping the peace dividend: over 21 million tourists visited Jammu and Kashmir in 2023. There has been a significant decline in terror incidents. Organized bandh/hartals, and stone pelting, which once disrupted normal life, are now a thing of the past.”

Furthermore, Prime Minister Modi underlined that since Article 370 was revoked, which granted Jammu and Kashmir special status, the region has developed into an amiable host for international events, including major conferences like the G20 and Formula 4 racing events. Innovation, smart solutions, startups, and the digital economy are all gaining traction.

PM Modi on the significance of Ayodhya Ram Mandir

Regarding the significance of the recently opened Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, PM Modi stated that India’s national consciousness is etched with the name of Shri Ram. He asserted that the ideas and ideals of the nation’s “civilisation” have been shaped by the life of Lord Ram.

“The name of Shri Ram is imprinted on our national consciousness. His life has set the contours of thoughts and values in our civilisation. His name echoes across the length and breadth of our sacred land. Therefore, during the 11-day special ritual I observed, I made a pilgrimage to the places that carry the footprints of Shri Ram. My journey that took me to various corners of the country showed the revered place Shri Ram holds within each of us,” PM Modi told Newsweek.

He added that the return of Lord Ram to his birthplace marked a historic moment of unity for the nation. “It was a culmination of centuries of perseverance and sacrifice. When I was asked to be part of the ceremony, I knew I would be representing the 1.4 billion people of the country, who have waited patiently for centuries to witness Ram Lalla’s return,” PM Modi said.

Modi on religious minorities and allegations of discrimination

When asked about allegations that his government discriminates against certain religious minority groups, PM Modi said, “Such claims are made by a section of people who don’t bother to meet people outside their bubbles. Even India’s minorities don’t buy this narrative anymore. Minorities from all religions, be it Muslim, Christians, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain or even a micro-minority like Parsis are living happily and thriving in India.”

PM Modi highlighted his government’s saturation coverage approach in their schemes and initiatives. He emphasised that the schemes and initiatives undertaken by his government are not limited to any particular community or religious group but rather are designed in a manner that leaves no scope for discrimination.

“Be it amenities like houses, toilets, water connection or cooking fuel or be it collateral free credit or health insurance, it is reaching every citizen irrespective of his community and religion,” PM Modi said.

PM Modi highlights 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State Legislatures

On being asked about the status of women in India during the Modi regime, PM Modi said that Indian women are at the forefront of the country’s development. He highlighted the shift in the lexicon from women’s development to women-led development.

“We passed the pathbreaking legislation to provide 33% reservation for women in our Parliament and State legislatures. In the forthcoming general elections, we have 15% more women enrolled as new voters,” PM Modi said.

He highlighted the drop in maternal mortality rate from 130 [out of 100,000 live births] in 2014 to 97 in 2020 adding that the nutritional status of women has also improved remarkably.

Highlighting the maternity benefit laws in India, PM Modi told Newsweek, “We have among the most progressive maternity benefit laws in the world, offering fully paid leave of 26 weeks and have mandated compulsory creche [day care] facilities in any establishment with more than 50 employees.

The Prime Minister outlined that women in India today are actively participating in all sectors including the armed forces. PM Modi also highlighted several women-centric schemes launched by his government including the Lakhpati Didi scheme, he launched on Independence Day last year.

“Millions of women are being benefited due to innovative schemes like Namo Drone Didi scheme, in which women are enabled to become drone operators in rural areas, and Lakhpati Didi scheme, in which 30 million women from self-help groups are being economically empowered to have an annual household income of more than one lakh rupees,” PM Modi told Newsweek.

PM Modi on coming Lok Sabha elections

On his government’s performance in the last ten years, PM Modi said that people were earlier not used to poll promises being fulfilled by politicians. However, the Modi government maintained an “excellent” track record of fulfilling its promises. “Our government has worked with the motto of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas,” which means—Together, for everyone’s growth, with everyone’s trust and everyone’s efforts,” he said.

Exuding confidence in public support for his government, PM Modi said that usually, even popular governments start losing public support by the end of the second term, however, India is an exception, he said.

“India stands out as an exception, where popular support for our government is increasing,” PM Modi asserted.

PM Modi on his legacy and how he wants the people to remember him

Despite being a highly popular leader, PM Modi is not much concerned about how he will be remembered. PM Modi said that if people are able to live a life of dignity and achieve their dreams then he will consider his task done.

“I think it is not my job to think about how I will be remembered, neither does this thought motivate me. My motivation is the impact I could make in the lives of every Indian, whom I consider my family. If they are able to live a life of dignity, and achieve their dreams, I would consider my task done. But till then, I am going to work tirelessly and devotedly to fulfil the aspirations of 1.4 billion Indians,” Prime Minister Modi said.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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