Interviewer (Ms. Elizabeth Graham Weymouth): So, you are just about ready to go to the United States Prime Minister.
Prime Minister (Dr. Manmohan Singh): Yes, in four days’ time.
Interviewer :What would you like to accomplish in the United States when you see President Obama?
Prime Minister: We are strategic partners. We have good relations. But there is the new Administration in America. We are now in our second five-year term. So, it is appropriate that I should renew our partnership. I sincerely hope that we can work together with President Obama and his Administration to build an enduring partnership based on equality and mutual understanding for promoting greater security and sustained development in the world.
Interviewer : So, that’s your aim when you go to Washington,
Prime Minister: That is, to put it succinctly.
Interviewer : But people say, for instance, that you might announce a partnership in space, that you might announce a new green revolution. Can you share with me and with my readers some of the thoughts you have on how you see the possibility of India and the United States cooperating in the future, Sir?
Prime Minister: First of all, we had a watershed and a landmark agreement with the United States on nuclear cooperation. We would like to operationalise it and ensure that the objectives for the nuclear deal are realised in full merit. My sincere hope is that we can persuade the US Administration to be more liberal when it comes to transfer of dual-use technologies to us. Now that we are strategic partners these restrictions make no sense. India has an impeccable record of not participating in any proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. So, that is my number one concern.
Interviewer : So, you are talking about the consent agreement that the President would have to sign and send to Congress?
Prime Minister: That is right.
Interviewer : And on your side, I believe, your Parliament would have to pass a liability agreement. Is that correct?
Prime Minister: We will do that. Our Cabinet will be taking a decision. I do not see any difficulties in honouring our commitments.
Interviewer : So, you are concerned about the US honouring the consent agreement?
Prime Minister: We have no worries, but we would like a positive reaffirmation of this Administration to carry forward that process.
Interviewer : To carry forward the civil nuclear deal?
Prime Minister: Yes. I also said that this is a partnership for sustained and sustainable development of India and the new global world order which is in search of a new equilibrium. India and the United States could be partners in refocusing our attention on an equitable, balanced, global order.
Interviewer: What does that mean exactly?
Prime Minister: Well, there are several components of sustained development. There is the energy cooperation - we would like to strengthen energy cooperation with the United States - clean coal technologies, renewable energy resources. Similarly there is concern for food security. We would like to have a second green revolution in our country. In the first green revolution technologies which were by-product of the US public sector played a major role in transforming Indian agriculture. We need another green revolution to carry forward that process still further. Therefore, cooperation in the field of agriculture, cooperation in the field of science and technology, cooperation in the field of health, ensuring cooperation between our two countries in dealing with pandemics, these are all the concerns that I have, and I propose to share these concerns with President Obama and hope that we both can reaffirm our commitment to carry forward these processes.
Interviewer: I got an email this morning from Gen. Petraeus who said he never met you but he sent you his regards.
Prime Minister: Please give him my regards.
Interviewer: I guess the obvious question comes up of how you see Afghanistan from your point of view. Are you concerned that the US will not stay involved in this conflict? And what are the implications for India?
Prime Minister: I sincerely hope that the United States and the global community will stay involved in Afghanistan. A victory for the Taliban in Afghanistan would have catastrophic consequences for the world, particularly for South Asia, for Central Asia, for Middle East. The triumph of religious fundamentalism in Afghanistan would have far-reaching consequences for peace and stability in the world as well.
Interviewer: And that is what you think would happen if we do not go through with our commitment.
Prime Minister: Let me put it this way. The religious fundamentalism in the 1980s was used to defeat the Soviet Union. It is the same group of people. If they defeated the Soviet Union and now they defeat the other major power, this would embolden them in a manner which could have catastrophic consequences for the world at large.
Interviewer: So, if they defeated now the United States in other words, it would embolden them so they could do anything?
Prime Minister: Yes, that is right.
Interviewer: So, that is your concern about the future of Afghanistan.
Prime Minister: We have of course no immediate concerns because we are victims of terrorism. The extremist ideologies of the type that the Taliban have, if not checked, could destabilise our country as well.
Interviewer: In other words you would like to see the President send the troops as Gen. Mc Crystal has demanded.
Prime Minister: I am not an expert on military strategies. I am not well versed with what is the military situation on the ground though I got to hear that there are worries about the military situation. I have no fixed views about the amount or number of troops that the US would have. But it is very important that both for providing security and for providing sustained development the United States and the global community should stay engaged with Afghanistan.
Interviewer: Do you think that people in the US understand the connection between Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan? Do you believe there is a close connection?
Prime Minister: There is a close connection. I mean they are the offshoots, they are chips of the same block.
Interviewer: You know some people say, “Oh! They are not”, but I understood they were very close, as you said.
Prime Minister: That is my honest view.
Interviewer: How do you feel about President Karzai? There has been a lot of criticism of him in America. I believe India has been supportive.
Prime Minister: Let me say that President Karzai’s regime is not perfect. There are imperfections, there are problems of improving governance. But you cannot transform Afghanistan overnight. It is going to be a long-term affair. Democracy as the west understands may be not possible to introduce in a short period of time in Afghanistan. But it is a fact that millions of Afghan children, millions of girl children are now in schools when none was in school when the Taliban was in power. For safeguarding human freedoms one has to take a balanced view. Now that President Karzai has been re-elected, I think the time has come when the global community should rally behind him to give Afghanistan a stable, purposeful, and relatively corruption-free administration.
Interviewer: Now, your neighbour to the north, Pakistan. How do you assess the situation there? Some people say that the civil government there is really losing power. How do you see the situation?
Prime Minister: We are concerned with the rise of terrorism in Pakistan. We have been the victims of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism for a long period of time. Now, if in addition, the Taliban and Al Qaeda type of terror, which in the past was located in the FATA area of Pakistan, gets transferred to the mainland of Pakistan - that is Punjab, which is next door to our Punjab - it has very serious consequences for our own security.
Interviewer: So, you say that the sort of instability in the FATA ...
Prime Minister: We would not like terrorism to lead to a situation where the civilian government is only a nominal government.
Interviewer: Do not you think that is the situation right now?
Prime Minister: I am not saying that is the situation now. We would like democracy to succeed in Pakistan. We would like the normal processes of democracy to operate in full measure in Pakistan. But obviously now that the Al Qaeda and the terrorists have a grip over several parts of Pakistan, that is a cause of worry to us.
Interviewer: It is terrible.
Prime Minister: It is terrible.
Interviewer: So, it is impossible to know but do you think that Pakistanis are trying as hard as they can? Or do you think they are not trying as hard as they can?
Prime Minister: Let me say that our feeling is that as far as Afghanistan is concerned I am not sure whether the US and Pakistan have the same objective. Pakistan would like Afghanistan to be under its control, under its strong influence. They would like the United States to get out as soon as possible.
Interviewer: Pakistan would like the US to get out.
Prime Minister: So, the US objective and Pakistan’s objective it appears to me are not the same.
Interviewer: Because Pakistan would like the United States to get out and the United States would like Pakistan to be under some control. Is that what you are saying, Prime Minister?
Prime Minister: What I am saying is that the United States objectives are to get Pakistan’s support to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. But I do not see Pakistan is wholeheartedly in support of action against the Taliban in Afghanistan. They are of course taking action against Taliban when they threaten the supremacy of the army. But that is it.
Interviewer: In other words they are only taking action against the Pakistani Taliban.
Prime Minister: That is true.
Interviewer: So, decidedly, possibly, India and the United States are able to cooperate in coming up with some kind of cooperation against the enemies of both India and the United States, which are the rest of the Taliban?
Prime Minister: Let me say that we have supported the strong presence of the international community in Afghanistan. We have provided substantial amount of resources, about 1.2 billion dollars, for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. We are of course not able to provide troops, but we would like to do more for reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. We believe we can do more in this area and do it more effectively than many other aid donors of Afghanistan.
Interviewer: You mean, for example, deliver supplies to, say, US and NATO troops? Or is that a bad example?
Prime Minister: We are active in building infrastructure in Afghanistan. We are involved in strengthening schools, education, healthcare, electricity. These are the areas where we have capacity to help Afghanistan, and we would like to do more.
Interviewer: I think people in America, reasonable people, actually do not understand what we are doing in Afghanistan. I would be curious to see what you think when you are in the United States. I am not talking about people in the State Department or the Defence Department but the general public which I think will be a problem for the President.
Prime Minister: I hope that the US public understands where it all started, after 9/11. If Al Qaeda did not have a home in Afghanistan, maybe 9/11 would never have taken place. God forbid if Al Qaeda gets another strong foothold in Afghanistan once again!
Interviewer: And that is what you believe will happen?
Prime Minister: Well, it could happen. I am not an astrologer. But there is a great worry that it could happen.
Interviewer: I think it is frustrating because there is not much understanding, I would say. America has very turned inward right now. Do you think there will be a civil war in Afghanistan if we withdraw?
Prime Minister: There is that danger.
Interviewer: From your point of view I assume that the most important thing is the terror groups in Pakistan.
Prime Minister: As I said we are victims of Pakistan-aided, abetted, and inspired terrorism for nearly 25 years. We would like the United States to use all its influence with Pakistan to desist from that path. Pakistan has nothing to fear from India. I have said this on many public occasions that the destinies of our two countries are interlinked. We should both be waging a war against poverty, ignorance and disease which afflict millions and millions of people in both our countries. It is a tragedy that Pakistan has come to this path of using terror as an instrument of state policies. We sincerely hope that the United States will use all its influence with the authorities in Pakistan including the armed forces of Pakistan to desist from this path.
Interviewer: You have a good point I have to say. But it is going to be very interesting to see what you come up with after your trip to Washington. On the US-India relationship, you said in the beginning, counter terrorism cooperation, space cooperation, do you see those on the agenda?
Prime Minister: Nuclear cooperation, cooperation in the field of education, closer linkages between the university systems of our two countries, cooperation in the field of health, working together to devise new vaccines.
Interviewer: How do you feel about Copenhagen and the emissions? Do you feel that we should send you equipment to deal with emissions?
Prime Minister: In accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol the developed countries have an obligation to perform with regard to reduction of emissions. And I sincerely hope that Copenhagen would reaffirm that. I know there are difficulties. But without the United States giving a lead I do not see a deal at Copenhagen can become a reality. On our part we recognise our own responsibilities. Although our emissions are one/tenth of the United States’, about one/tenth of the global average, if I remember correctly, we recognise that dealing with climate change is the responsibility of entire humanity. So, we have put in place a National Action Plan to deal with climate change. We have eight Climate Change Missions which if they succeed will bring about a significant reduction in emissions as compared with Business As Usual situation.
Interviewer: Interesting! A lot of people in the US worry very much, and it is a subject of great talk, about Iran getting a nuclear weapon? I know that India has a much better relationship with Iran than we do. Are you concerned? I know another undeclared site was just found yesterday.
Prime Minister: I had yesterday the Iranian Foreign Minister with me.
Interviewer: In Delhi?
Prime Minister: Yes.
Interviewer: How exciting!
Prime Minister: He was in Delhi yesterday.
Interviewer: Ah! For a change!
Prime Minister: We did discuss the nuclear question. Let me say the message that he left with me was that they feel encouraged by the messages they are receiving from the Obama Administration. And I see a glimmer of hope in what the Iranian Minister told me yesterday.
Interviewer: Well, I guess so. It depends how you look on it. It depends what your aim is. Is your aim to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon or not?
Prime Minister: Let me say that we have taken a consistent position. Iran is a signatory to the NPT. It must have all the privileges that go with being a member of the NPT like peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It has also all the obligations that go with their membership of the NPT. Therefore, I think nuclear weapon is not an option which Iran is entitled to under its membership of the NPT.
Interviewer: You have much more information than I do, but it looks to all observers from the outside - including the IAEA which just found another undeclared site yesterday - it certainly looks - and appears even from the IAEA report - as if they are pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.
Prime Minister: I had the pleasure of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency visiting us a few weeks ago. And he was not so sure that Iran is definitely working towards a nuclear weapon.
Interviewer: It is interesting. The report that they issued yesterday - I do not know if you saw it, I could not sleep so I saw it in the middle of the night - was very very critical, the IAEA report.
Prime Minister: I have not seen that.
Interviewer: Well, unless you cannot sleep there is no reason you would. But they found another undeclared site and there was a particularly critical report issued. Now, I know that you were engaged in talks with Gen. Musharraf when he was Head of Pakistan for two years. Then, as far as I can understand, you went to Sharm el-Sheikh and you made some decorations that you hoped, just like you have just said, that Pakistan and India could maybe reach some kind of peace one day. Are there any kind of steps now or do you feel that the situation ...
Prime Minister: Let me say that we are committed to resolve all outstanding issues with Pakistan through purposeful, meaningful, bilateral negotiation. Our only condition is that Pakistan should not allow its territory to be used for acts of terror directed against India. This is the commitment that Gen. Musharraf had given to my predecessor when he visited Pakistan in 2004. This is the commitment that was given to me whenever I met Gen. Musharraf. This is the commitment given to me at Sharm el-Sheikh by Prime Minister Gilani. If Pakistan really honours that commitment, we can go back to purposeful, meaningful negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues between ourselves.
Interviewer: So, if you look at Mumbai and the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, they are obviously not honouring the agreement.
Prime Minister: As far as the perpetrators of Mumbai massacre are concerned, they had taken some steps but not enough. As far as the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba is concerned, under a different name Jamat-ud-Dawa ...
Interviewer: They just left that guy out of jail, didn’t they?
Prime Minister: They have not put Hafiz Saeed in prison. The courts have released him. That is the excuse. But from our standpoint, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jamat-ud-Dawa, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, are the perpetrators of terror in our country, and Pakistan has the obligation to take effective action to prevent them from continuing to indulge in these undesirable acts.
Interviewer: Do you worry about another Mumbai?
Prime Minister: Every day I receive intelligence reports that the terrorists based in Pakistan are planning other similar acts.
Interviewer: Terrible! The terrorists based in Pakistan are planning more?
Prime Minister: Yes, that is right.
Interviewer: Are there any contacts between your Government and the Pakistani Government?
Prime Minister: We have normal contacts. Our High Commission is there. They have a High Commission here.
Interviewer: But it is not like that channel that you had open.
Prime Minister: But we have very good cooperation with the US and we get lot of information from friendly countries, and that points to persistence of these terrorist groups – Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jamat-ud-Dawa – in acts of terrorism directed against our country.
Interviewer: How do you see China? Do you see it as a threat, do you see it as a trading partner, or both?
Prime Minister: Let me say that the peaceful rise of China creates new opportunities for the world to engage China. China has emerged as a major trading partner with us, and we welcome that. But we have problems with China with regard to our boundary dispute. We both have discussed this. We are engaged in a discussion of the boundary dispute. Both of us are agreed that it is a complicated issue, it will take time to resolve it, and that pending the resolution of the boundary dispute both of us have an obligation to maintain peace and tranquillity along the borders. I have said this in China and elsewhere, we believe that there is enough space in the world to accommodate the development ambitions of both India and China. But there will be certain areas where there will be competition in trade, investment; and that is healthy.
Interviewer: That is interesting. Since you are an economist, do you believe that the economic weakness caused by the disaster that struck us last year has eroded the United States’ leadership role in Asia or affected it?
Prime Minister: I sincerely hope that the United States will recover from last year’s disaster. With the entrepreneurial skills of the US business class, the innovation, the US educational system which encourages innovation and invention, I have no doubt that the US would overcome this temporary setback. We would like the United States to succeed in that effort.
Interviewer: Some people are saying even in the US that we have definitely lost some of our power, and some of our leadership ability due to the fact that we have such huge deficits.
Prime Minister: I have heard many times before. When I was in the United States in the late 1960s there was Prof. Robert Triffin at Yale who wrote a famous book Gold & the Dollar Crisis saying the dollar’s role as a reserve currency has come to an end and the United States must recognise this. That was said in 1968. Then of course came 1971 when the US went off the Gold Exchange Tender. But the United States bounced back. I hope that the same thing will happen once again.
Interviewer: But if you look at the objective facts, and you know much more than I do, I spent a lot of time with businessmen and they are all so worried.
Prime Minister: I think it is good that they worry about it because excesses of the type which characterised the US banking system last year should have been a cause of worry. They should have been detected much earlier.
Interviewer: You have got a point. But India seems to have basically ...
Prime Minister: First of all our banking system is better regulated. We do not allow our banking system to invest heavily in those types of assets.
Interviewer: You mean derivatives, CDOs, and squared and things like that. Your economy basically escaped from this.
Prime Minister: We are affected because our exports are affected. Our export growth rate has sharply declined. What is more is that the flow of capital has also been affected. But more recently, capital has started coming back to our country. Overall, before the crisis our growth rate was 8.5 to 9 per cent per annum in the previous four years.
Interviewer: Unbelievable!
Prime Minister: Since then it has declined to 6.7 per cent. This year it will be about 6.5 per cent. We believe that on the basis of domestic demand, both consumption demand and investment demand, in two years’ time we can go back to a 9 per cent growth rate. I say it with confidence because our domestic savings rate is as high as 35 per cent of our GDP.
Interviewer: You are kidding! How did you manage that?
Prime Minister: Well, I think the Indian people are very thrifty.
Interviewer: That is amazing!
Prime Minister: And with a capital output ratio of 4:1, we should over a period of time be able to sustain a growth rate of 8 to 9 per cent.
Interviewer:  That is unbelievable! If we could trade places with you! That is amazing! What is your take on the Maoist insurgency? What about the areas that people say are out of control? Your friend Montek Singh Ahluwalia was telling me last night that there are these forests and people are living in them and so on and so forth and then there are Maoists.
Prime Minister: It is certainly true that benefits of development have not reached all sections of our population. There are tribal areas in Central India where poverty is acute, and that is taken advantage of by these antisocial elements whom we call as the Maoists. We will tackle them. This is a dual strategy. First of all in these distant parts of our country the law and order machinery of the state cannot reach early. We are trying to strengthen that. Simultaneously we will ensure that the fruits of development hereafter are more equitably distributed so that the social discontent and unrest which is the result of this unequal development is also taken care of.
Interviewer: You mean some law and order and some spreading of the wealth would be the way out there?
Prime Minister: Accelerated development, yes.
Interviewer: When you look at your country and what you would like to achieve in the next few years, what is that?
Prime Minister: A growth rate of about 9 per cent per annum, and to ensure that this growth is an inclusive growth, that the benefits of development reach out to all sections of our population, that the disparities between rural India and urban India are reduced and ultimately eliminated.
Interviewer: Do you feel that you have made a difference as Prime Minister to your country? What do you think your legacy would be? Do you think that you have changed this country?
Prime Minister: I hope I have made some difference. That is for posterity to judge.
Interviewer: Well, what a hard job! Are you worried at all about the Test Ban Treaty which President Obama and his Administration seem very intent on pushing through the Senate?
Prime Minister: Why should we be worried? We are not worried at all. We have a unilateral moratorium on testing imposed voluntarily. We stand by that. And we would like to work with President Obama to promote the cause of global nuclear disarmament, a world free of nuclear weapons. I think that is a world which has been the dream of our leaders from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi. We would like to work with all likeminded countries to achieve that goal.
Interviewer: Is your last dream to build an infrastructure in India?
Prime Minister: Infrastructure is a primary requirement of sustained development. We need to invest lot more money, lot more resources in roads, in ports, in airports, in irrigation, in urban infrastructures. These are our top priorities. That is what I meant that if we get our infrastructure right, our savings rate would enable us to sustain a growth rate of about 8 to 9 per cent.
Interviewer: But the infrastructure is a priority.
Prime Minister: It is a priority.
Interviewer: Prime Minister, there is just no way I can thank you enough for your time. I know how busy you are getting ready for your trip.
Prime Minister: Well it is a great pleasure having you with us.
Interviewer: No, it is the other way round. You are such a wonderful country.
Prime Minister: And I hope you will come more often.
Interviewer: Thank you very much and I wish you such good luck with your ...