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Home > News > Report

Dr Manmohan Singh's interview with Charlie Rose

March 01, 2006 20:24 IST

PBS - CHARLIE ROSE SHOW
INTERVIEW WITH PRIME MINISTER MANMOHAN SINGH, February 27

CHARLIE ROSE:
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for letting us visit you here at the official residence.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
It was a great pleasure and great privilege to have you interviewing me at my residence.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Thank you very much. Anybody who comes here from America always comes back and says it's really a remarkable experience. The last time I was interviewing you, you quoted Victor Hugo saying, as you had said to the Parliament, "Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come."

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Whose time has come.

CHARLIE ROSE:
In terms of the United States and India, you think that applies today? An idea whose time has come?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
I sincerely believe that. And that's what I-- said in my address to the US Congress. I said there are partnerships based on principle. There are partnerships based on pragmatism. And fortunately, when it comes to Indo-American's relations, both kind of situations point to a new robust phase of relationship, a multi-faceted relationship, which I believe is just in the interest of both our countries.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Can it be transformational?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
It could be transformational, which I hope it will be transformational.
CHARLIE ROSE:
Said signaling a new what?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
A new India which realizes its destiny in the framework of an open society, in the framework of an open economy, respecting all fundamental human freedoms-- great respect for pluralistic, inclusive value system. I think that's what unites India and the United-- India and the United States. And I do hope that working together, our two countries can write a new chapter in the history of our relationship.

India has, of course, aspirations of getting out of its poverty, ignorance, and disease which still afflict millions of people. But I do believe that we have something to offer to the rest of the world, including the United States. Nowhere else you will find a country of India's diversity, of India's complexity, one billion people trying to seek their social and economic salvation in the framework of democracy, in the framework of an open economy. I sincerely believe what happens in India has I think lessons, morals for a future evolution of humankind in the 21st centuries.

CHARLIE ROSE:
What are those lessons?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
I do believe that the future of civilization belongs to those who (UNINTEL) emphasis on working together instead of talking about clash of civilization. We-- what we need is a dialogue among civilizations. And we need multiculturalism, respect for diversity, tolerance, respect for diverse-- faiths. And that's what we are doing in our country. And if we succeed, and if we succeed in doing all this in the framework of a democratic policy, I believe large part of humanity will draw appropriate lessons from what is the wave of the future in the 21st century.

CHARLIE ROSE:
And you're prepared-- in this new strategic partnership with the United States to use that-- to help in terms of bridging and creating dialogue with the rest of the world where it might be necessary to have that kind of background involved.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
We have-- yes. I think-- what we are trying to do is, I-- I believe, has lessons for what happens to the rest of the developing world. But not only developing world. With the revolution in information technology, with the revo-- revolution in transport technologies, I think this geography has lost its old significance.

I believe whether it is the United States or Europe, they will all end up as multicultural societies. So India's this great experiment of a billion people of such great diverse persuasion, working together, seeking their salvation in the framework of a democracy. I believe it will have some lessons for all the multicultural societies. And I believe all societies, all thriving societies of the future are going to be multiculturals.

CHARLIE ROSE:
So on Wednesday, March 1st, the President of the United States, representing the world's oldest democracy, comes to see you representing the world's largest democracy. How did that happen? Because it is said that the president saw you at the United Nations, one story, and pulled you aside or asked for a moment and said, "I understand your country's demand for oil. I understand China's demand for oil. I understand our demand for oil. I wanna help you-- with the nuclear issue. And let us work on that. And let us try to get past what has been an obstacle."

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I don't recall his telling me at the United Nations. But I do recall his telling me at the very first meeting that I had with him. And we were together also at Glen Eagles-- at the G8 Summit. We had extensive-- dialogue. We were sitting side by side. And this is exactly how he described the-- the global energy scenes, India's requirements.
And he said to me, "If the oil prices go up to $100, that hurts India, but it also hurts the United States. So we must work together to help India to get its-- nuclear security by increased emphasis on the availability of nuclear power."

CHARLIE ROSE:
So that puts this nuclear deal at the centerpiece of this new relationship.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
In a way, yes. But ours is a multidimensional relationship. But at the present state, energy has emerged as a major constraint on our development. At the present, 70 percent of India's imports of oil and oil products are imported from abroad. There is uncertainty about supply. There is uncertainty about prices. And that hurts India's development.
We have large reserves of coals. But extensive use of coal, unless they use clean coal technologies, I think has environmental hazards global-- or global warming and all that. But in all this, if we have access to nuclear energy, that is a-- a-- that-- adds to our maneuverability in ensuring energy security as our country marches on, on the path to accelerated development.

CHARLIE ROSE:
It'll also mark, too, a new access to technology and to fuel, you know, and future reactors in the civilian sphere. It also seems to give acceptance within the global community to the responsible-- your-- your sense of responsibility in handling-- new-- nuclear weaponry.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well-- we have an impeccable record. We have never been the source of unauthorized proliferation of these sensitive technologies, even when the provocations were there. We have a very tight system of export control.

In fact, before going to the United States, I got parliament to pass a latest legislation which puts our export controls-- on the same footing as most of the developed countries-- when it comes to export of sensitive technologies. So I do believe we-- we are a nuclear weapons state. But we are a unique in the sense that we still believe that the salvation of the world ultimately lies in moving towards universal nuclear disarmament.
But that's a long distance away. And Indians (UNINTEL) we would like to be a part of the nuclear world orders-- accepting all the responsibilities that go with being a nuc-- a responsible nuclear power, but at the same time, enlarging-- our options with regard to energy security of our country.

CHARLIE ROSE:
The president arrives on Wednesday. Will you have an agreement before he arrives, do you think?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I-- I sincerely hope-- that-- that's my hope. That's my prayer.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Right now there seems to be a separation in terms of what reactors will be in the civilian field and what will be considered military and this separation. Is that the dividing issue? What goes where?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I wouldn't call it a dividing issue. It is-- it is an important issue. I think the United States-- I recognize that the United States has to sell this deal to the Congress. But we have also Congress. And I always told-- our parliament, as I mentioned to the president, this deal is not about India's strategic program. That is not under discussion.
What is discussion is our civilian nuclear program. And there are concerns. And we had agreed that we will have a credible separation between our strategy program and the civilian program. That we are committed to-- whatever we have committed in July 18's statement in letter and spirit, we will fulfill our obligations.

CHARLIE ROSE:
It's more than 90 percent likely that we'll have an agreement.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
I certainly hope that.

CHARLIE ROSE:
You think it'll happen before the president arrives or once the president arrives?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I think there's only a few days (LAUGHTER) our officials have with that work. They will-- work-- 'til I think early morning yesterday. I think (UNINTEL) has gone back. I sincerely hope that we can clinch this issue. And that would be a great contribution of President Bush to ending India's isolation from the world nuclear orders.
I mentioned to the president last time I met, "Mr. President, the people of India, particularly the thinking part of our population, our scientists, our technologists, have rightly or wrongly nursed this grievance a-- against the United States. That the United States has joined with other countries to erect a system of controls which denies our country access to dual-use technologies to prevent us from leapfrogging in the race for social and economic development." And I said, "I appeal to you I think to look at India-US nuclear cooperation in that grand setting." I look upon it as an act of historic reconciliation.

CHARLIE ROSE:
The president has Congress to deal with.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, we have also a parliament. And our parliament is also very sensitive about these issues. I have promised our parliament that I will do nothing which will hurt India's strategic program. And our program is a modest program.
Also, although we are not a-- (UNINTEL), we abide by most of the guidelines that-- operate with regard to export of sensitive technologies. And, therefore, I do believe that India is a unique case. And you need I think exceptional skills I think to incorporate Indian into the world nuclear order.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Some say the United States, if you-- go ahead with this as you plan to do, the United States, it's hypocritical because of your objection to Iran having a nuclear weapon.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
No. I-- I-- our relations with Iran, we relish a great deal. We have civilizational links. We are in the same region as Iran. And our concern with regard to Iran is that Iran is a signatory to the NPT. Iran must, therefore, have all the rights-- which go with its being a member of the NPT.

But it-- it has also certain obligations, which it has voluntarily taken. And, therefore, it is appropriate that Iran also fulfills those obligations. Now there have been doubts about an arms program. The International-- Atomic Energy Agency has gone into this. The Iranians themselves have admitted that certain-- elements of their program they had not reported to the International Atomic Energy-- Agency.

Our hope is that it is not too late in the day to resolve these differences-- through dialogue, through diplomacy. And I-- I hope that the world community will have the sagacity to give diplomacy, dialogue the full scope to reconcile these so-called irreconcilables.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Why do you think the president-- or do you believe he views this relationship with you and your country, between the United States and India, as a major foreign policy initiative. Some have even said, as you know, that for this president it's equivalent to President Nixon going to China.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well-- well-- well, I have met the president now three or four times. And I have been deeply impressed by his commitment to the cause of democracy. He sincerely believes that democracy is good for everybody, that democracy-- is good for world peace, democracies don't go to war. And the fact that India is a functioning democracy despite its extreme poverty, India has stayed the course. It has remained a full-functioning democracy. I suspect that weighs with the president a great.

CHARLIE ROSE:
The idea of democracy and being able to have a strategic relationship with the world's largest democracy is important to him.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
That's what I feel. I think he-- he's always told me, and in his address to the HS Society a few days ago.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Few-- days ago, yes.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
He led, again, I think great emphasis on that-- the solid relationship-- well, is based on values as well as interest, as the president put it. The values are the values of democracy, the values of pluralism-- the value of tolerance of differences. And interests are that of the two countries, if they work together, this is a win-win game.
India's growth rate will be accelerated. But in the process, medical would also benefit. Outsourcing information technology revolution, the access to India's-- human resources, India's-- pool of scientists. It will also help American companies to become leaner, meaner, more efficient. And they become more competitive both in the United States and in dealing with the rest of the world.

CHARLIE ROSE:
I wanna talk about all those economic issues. Let me stay with the strategic issue for a second. There are those who say the president would like to have a counterbalance to-- to China. That India serves-- because of all these interests, economic as well as-- cultural and as well as the-- sharing democracy, as the best way for the United States to have a counter-availing relationship-- for China.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, we are not in competition with China. I had a very good discussion with the president-- on this subject. And I think there was a complete unanimity of views. Both of our countries believe China is very important. The future growth of China-- China's influence is bound to rise.
And we all believe that we must remain engaged with China. We have differences with China with regard to the border issue. We are making a sincere effort to resolve-- resolve those differences. And the president told me that's precisely what we should do I think. He says the United States also wants to remain engaged with China.
But I also believe that without looking-- at each other as rivals or as competitors, in a democratic India operating in the framework of an open economy, an open society, has I think some significance for developed-- developing countries not only in Asia but outside Asia.

CHARLIE ROSE:
President said he didn't want to-- I think his words were, "I don't want to-- contain China." But he doesn't think that one country should dominate in the region. Do you share that idea?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
I think-- it's-- looking at history, I think that would be an appropriate model I think.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Does-- does India-- want to help contain China if that's America's policy?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
As I said, we are not in-- competition with China. We are not part-- are not going to be a part of any alliance against China. And I do believe that the present Chinese leadership wants to make a success of its modernization.
I don't believe the present leadership of China threatens India or, for that matter, other countries. We would like to have I think warm, friendly relations with China. We would like to resolve our border dispute. Our economic-- relations are growing. And both of our countries need peace and cooperation I think to make a success of our ambitious-- plans to get rid of our-- get rid of poverty that afflicts millions of people in both countries.

CHARLIE ROSE:
What do you think China's ambitions are?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, as of now, certainly I think modernization of Chinese economy and Chinese society-- is a prime concern. But also I think the Chinese do have visions of being a great power. And I think it's legitimate. And-- I-- I don't see that that's a danger to us.

CHARLIE ROSE:
India wants to be a great power.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Yes. As I said, I-- when I-- when you quoted-- me when I quoted Victor Hugo in '91, I said precisely, I said the emergence of India as a major-- global power is an idea whose time has come. This is a legitimate ambition for China.
This is a legitimate ambition for India. And the challenge for the humanity is to-- to evolve a world system-- in which the legitimate ambitions of both our countries can find constructive expression without threatening anybody else.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Secretary Rice has said, you know, that what the United States goal is, is to assist in any way it can India becoming a global power in the 21st century.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
That's what she came here and last year. And she for the first time-- made that formulation. And I rang her up a few days ago and I said to her-- "Madam, you were the one who planted this idea that the United States would like to help India to become a major power. Well, this nuclear deal is one what a concrete expression of US interest. So I hope we will have your blessings to conclude this deal before the president comes."

CHARLIE ROSE:
As India becomes a global power with its economy, with its population, with its democracy-- with its trade-- how can the United States, in a strategic sense, help India?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well-- there are diverse ways-- in which right now terror and all that goes with it is a prime concern. It's a concern of the United States. It's the concern of India. Joint strategies, cooperation, joint sharing of intelligence in controlling terrorism, in making the world free from terror. I think that's the fundamental I think consideration if our development aspirations are to be fulfilled. And I think our two countries can cooperate in--

CHARLIE ROSE:
In the battle against terrorism.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Yes. Well-- in our neighborhood, we have the nascent democracy of Afghanistan. We have been engaged in helping Afghanistan to the best of our ability. We have a development assistance program for Afghanistan of nearly $650 million. Our program covers all the-- basic-- human needs-- the-- and requirements of Afghanistan.
So working together in helping nascent democracies in the task of reconstruction, in the task of development is another area where our two countries can work together. And the president himself mentioned our cooperation in making the world-- secure-- with-- against-- epidemics like HIV/AIDS, malaria-- of tuberculosis.
These are our major problems. The United States and India can work together. We can pool our research capabilities-- to find vaccines which will provide effective answers to the problems posed by these epidemics.

CHARLIE ROSE:
It's already happening in the private sector with Bill Gates coming here and-- and being involved.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Yes-- Bill Gates is very-- I think intimately involved in these programs, and we welcome his involvement. And I mentioned about energy securities.

CHARLIE ROSE:
When you think about agriculture-- there is this idea that's being promoted, which is a second green revolution.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Yes. I did mention myself in my address to the joint session of the Congress. The first green revolution in our country, which came in the early-'60s, although greatly took the cooperation between Indian authorities, Indian scientists, and the land grant qualities of the United States, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation. I think that's a-- a-- a growing chapter in the history of cooperation between our two countries.

CHARLIE ROSE:
And it can be reignited.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
It can be reignited. And that's what the president and I have some very good ideas. We have discussed that, how-- the knowledge initiatives to give a big boost to the second green revolution in our country.

CHARLIE ROSE:
There is also military cooperation. Some representatives of your military went to see Secretary Rumsfeld. There is an agreement there.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Yes. There is a framework agreement.

CHARLIE ROSE:
What are the implications of that?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I think-- we would like to diversify sources of our purchases of weapons. Also, we would like to have a cooperative arrangements where some of these things, joint research, joint-- joint production. And also I think the-- the cooperation between the military of two-- two-- countries, we have already I think in place arrangements where the air forces-- of the two countries have joint exercises.. So I would like I think to expand-- the relationship with the United States in all these diverse fields.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Is in any way it difficult to be a friend of the United States in 2006?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, let me say that-- events in Iraq, events in Iran I think do-- create some anxieties, particularly among the Muslim-- population of our country. And I sincerely hope that the difficulties that are there in Iraq and Iran can be resolved, that Iraq will see a new era of hope in which its people will enjoy a full sovereignty.
And also the problems that there is with Iran-- can be resolved through dialogue-- through giving diplomacy a chance. Otherwise, I don't see I think there are any problems between India and the elected states.

CHARLIE ROSE:
No significant foreign policy differences other than--

MANMOHAN SINGH:
No-- no--

CHARLIE ROSE:
--Iraq, and you're prepared to help there in terms of--

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, in terms of reconstruction, we have offered, for example, to train their police, to train their civil service, train their election officials. And just as what we are doing in Afghanistan.

CHARLIE ROSE:
The UN membership-- permanent membership on the UN Security Council. France was here, said, "We're in favor of you."

MANMOHAN SINGH:
I would very much like the United States I think to-- (LAUGHTER) when the president comes here--

CHARLIE ROSE:
You'll remind him.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
--I think that he would announce that the United States is also of the same view. But I recognize the United States as a superpower. It has various interests. It's balanced various things. But I do believe that India's case for permanent membership of the Security Council is very strong.

CHARLIE ROSE:
But you'll remind the president when he comes.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well-- this matter was raised with-- with Secretary Rice when she came here. And I-- if I get a chance, I will raise that again with the--
So if this nuclear-- if this nuclear agreement can't be reached, your national security advisor says that the relationship will go into the stratosphere, is the way he described it. I-- I just wanna make sure I understand your vision of the stratosphere in terms of how the United States and India can cooperate. Certainly in terms of-- using-- India and the Middle East as you suggestion, as a sense of a voice for where there is a secular-- society of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds. How else would this be manifest? This strategic relationship that's possible with the United States?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, in areas of cooperation, giant working, giant thinking, and that-- cooperation for us, is regional for us, bilateral for us, I think there are-- enormous-- enormous possibilities. And today there are no, I think, barriers to-- increased cooperation between India and the United States in any field.
But as I said, what-- what goes on in Iraq, what goes on in Iran, it does-- (UNINTEL) significant proportion of our population.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Do they believe it's somehow moving away from-- India's position of a non-aligned nation or have you long ago moved away from that idea?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
I have always regarded non alignment as-- a statement that India's policies-- foreign policy, will be guided by what I describe as enlightened national interest. That means we will make judgments-- on an independent basis with the sole concern being what is enlightened India's national interest. In that sense, non alignment remains as relevant today as it was in the 1950s.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Who opposes-- in your political community-- this coming of the United States and India closer together.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, my opinion is that-- it has-- it's-- wide support (UNINTEL), in fact the major of our population-- wants-- closer-- involvement between India and the United States. There was a research-- I think-- team which conducted a survey about what Indians think of Americans. And 71 percent I believe said, "Well, I think all the nice things about our working together with the United St"-- with the Iraq people I think that there are old mindsets-- who-- still-- I (UNINTEL) remain my heart in the Cold War ideology.

There are-- I think-- the left parties of our coalition, they-- still regard the United States as a hegemonic power. But-- I think the-- the new Indians of tomorrow, our young people, our businessmen, our scientists, our technologists, I think they are not-- I think-- held back-- by these-- cold time think (PH).

CHARLIE ROSE:
I've been visiting this week in India. And they all tell me that with respect to China, there's an increasing economic relationship in respect to China. And that that is good, that China sees India as a market, that China has a manufacturing base, India has a service base. They have all kinds of trade developing between India and China.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
I agree with that, I agree with that.

CHARLIE ROSE:
And where does that go, and what's the benefit of that?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I think our two countries-- if our trade grows, I hope that out of that will come a new attitude of coexistence. We had this unfortunate-- incidents of 1962.

CHARLIE ROSE:

The border.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Of the border. If we resolve that, the image to cooperation between India and China would not-- between there, I think. We are both countries located in Asia, and the Chinese economy grow at the rate of nine percent, the Indian economy growing at the rate of eight percent. Enormous, I think, opportunities for flow of trade, technology, an investment.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Is the-- the United States relationship with Pakistan-- an issue for you?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
No. We want Pakistan to prosper. Pakistan should be a model Islamic moderate state. It should be a prosperous country. It is in India's interest, it is in the world's interest. I sincerely hope that whatever influence that the United States has in Pakistan, it will convince Pakistan that-- using television as an instrument of state policy has no place in the world. That we want to build.
If Pakistan-- honors an electorate and the commitment in 2004, the Pakistan territory will not be used-- for-- promoting terrorist acts against-- India. The sky is the limit of cooperation between our two countries. This basically-- we are-- the same people. There are ties of religion, there are ties of language, there are ties of culture.

CHARLIE ROSE:
You were in fact born in-- (UNINTEL) in Pakistan.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Yes. President Musharraf was born here, I was born on the other side of the border. And-- my vision is-- to wait for the relationship between India and Pakistan, it will be like the relations between Canada and the United States. We want Pakistan to-- flourish as a modern Islamic state. That is in India's interest, that is in the interests of the world as a whole.

CHARLIE ROSE:
You mentioned your economy, you mentioned China's economy. You've been growing at a rate of seven percent. You are the former finance minister and people give you a lot of credit for what has taken place. They also raise this question. Is it sustainable?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I think the-- proof of the pudding is in the (UNINTEL).

CHARLIE ROSE:
You're using an American expression.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
So the last 16-- 15 years now-- when we opened up the economy, I think the economy has sustained a growth rate of six percent. We are (UNINTEL) the profits of (UNINTEL). The last-- four-- three, four years of our economy now is increasing at the rate of seven-- percentage. And I do believe that-- our growth rate in years to come will go up.

We have now a record savings rate of 29 percent of our GDP, it has gone up by five to six percent in the last five, six year. We have a record investment flow rate of 31 percent of our GDP. In years to come, savings rate will go up. Because we have-- a-- a very young-- working population profile. In years to come, if we can find jobs for all these, I think they would need to-- they would-- be a source of increased income, they would be a source of increased savings. I see India inching in the next five or six years, to a growth rate of close to ten percent.

CHARLIE ROSE:
In the next two or three years.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Next-- ten years. I-- not two years.

CHARLIE ROSE:
What has to take place in terms of liberalization-- and-- privatization for that to occur?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I think-- liberalization, by and large, we are-- we are there. Our principle right now is the infrastructure. India's infrastructure has to be modernized, has to be expanded at the rate which will-- I think-- with consist-- which will be consistent with the growth requirements. We-- we need to modernize our (UNINTEL) system, we need to modernize our road system, post system, airport system. We need-- to move towards a (UNINTEL) which will ensure energy and security.
And then we will have to-- relook at the way our government systems function. I think our government has gone out of business. Many-- many things we've got out. But still I think, there is an old-- old-- (UNINTEL) hand. The government considers itself as-- what we call, as the MadaPedha, the father and mother.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Yeah.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
I would like government to have greater concern as a facilitator rather than as a regulator. There, I think, we have some distance to go. We have also problems in modernizing our political system. There are several states in our union where-- I think-- the politicians are not preoccupied with the great dynamics as I believe they should be. They're still mired (PH) in the old-- the-- religious controversies, the past controversies. So India's political system also would need to be modernized.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Do you have the political will to make sure that happens?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I think it is happening. There, I think-- it-- could have happened at a much faster pace. But I sincerely believe that this-- is-- now an inescapable-- inevitable part. Things are moving in that direction.

CHARLIE ROSE:
For example, I mean I've had conversations with business leaders about-- you know-- the retail segment. And some have said that's gonna be a kind of ticking point. I mean if there's modernization in the retail area that would be clear evidence.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, we have, I think, taken the first steps. We-- we-- this-- this year's-- we have opened up to trade with regard to majority ownership of foreign-- companies. Single (UNINTEL) area have been opened up. There are-- in all these matters, there are concerns. There's such a thing as the fear of the unknown. And-- in a country where-- employment opportunities are not growing fast enough, the fear of change tends to be very acute.
I have to create in our country, a macroeconomic environment where the employment in aggregate can go up-- at-- a handsome rate. Once that happens, people lose their job in one sector (UNINTEL) not mean that they become perpetually unemployed. From one sector, they could move on to other sectors.
I have, therefore, to wait until that time when the employment situation in our country is such that jobs are increasing. In such numbers-- that we can take risks with regard to retail. I don't think we could do it overnight. But I do recognize that I (UNINTEL) all sectors should be open to foreign direct investment.

CHARLIE ROSE:
There's a dramatic difference between foreign investment into China and into India. And-- and people say that they're deducing the-- regulations will dramatically change that.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well China is not-- or-- I think-- a country-- which-- does not regulate. But there is a difference between the Chinese system and our system. The Chinese are much more as-- I think-- centralized. We have-- three tiers of government. We have the central government, we have the state government, we have the local authorities.

The central government gives approvals for certain investment. But there are certain things that the central government cannot do. If they want to get land, if they want to get water, if they want to get electricity they have to go to the state government. If certain facilities, local facilities, have to be-- (UNINTEL), the-- local authorities have to come. And that makes the Indian system slow moving-- Indian administrative system slow moving.
I do believe that we have a problem here and we must find ways and means in which I think businessmen who want to set up enterprises here can get all clearances in without too much loss of time running from one person, one sector, to another. One authority to another. That-- I think we have made substantial progress in the last 15 years but we need to (UNINTEL) up--

CHARLIE ROSE:
There is no turning back.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
There is no turning back.

CHARLIE ROSE:
From liberalization--

MANMOHAN SINGH:
No--

CHARLIE ROSE:
From foreign--

MANMOHAN SINGH:
No.

CHARLIE ROSE:
From change.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Really, I think-- I-- I just-- said-- the proof of the pudding is in the eating. When we launched this sort of farm program in '91, I was opposed by both the extreme left as well as the extreme right. In fact, when I-- in '92 when I lived-- when I raised in Parliament to present the budget of the government of India. All the opposition (UNINTEL) wait and said the want to wave breach of privileged motion because what I'm doing is nothing else but carrying out the dictate of Washington and the IMF.
Now from that day, lots of things have changed. Since then, there have been three changes of government. From 6/96 to 1998, there was a united front government. The left party was-- part of that. That government did not change the direction of policies that we set. Then we had a coaltion government from '98-- they-- wrote viciously against liberalization, that we were selling India to foreigners.
But when they came to office, they also did not change. In fact, they-- they expanded what we had done. So I think we have seen three changes of government-- right, left, center, but direction of economic policies has been toward progressive liberalization. That made no difference of the pace at which India moves. But it should be made out what's ever about the direction in which India is going to move in years to come. The-- it is truly an area of civil shift in our policies.

CHARLIE ROSE:
And it has led you to-- you know-- a global position that-- that everybody talks about.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well-- in '92, even big business was against liberalization. I-- the CII, for example, big captain of industrial against liberalization. The Indian industry had been thrown to dogs. (UNINTEL) becomes here's the woods and (UNINTEL) water, that the Americans would come and take over our country. We will all-- we will all end up saluting them. Now-- Indian industry is much more confident. Not only it welcomes competition here, it wants to go and compete abroad, I think. Mr. Mittal has become the world's steel czar, I think.

CHARLIE ROSE:
He-- he certainly has. Now what did you want to be-- you said in this respect to Mr. Mettal, I think you said to Chirac, "Be kind to him."

MANMOHAN SINGH:
I said, well, this is an issue which should not be-- I think-- allowed to be influenced by too much-- sentiment. But all stakeholders much have an assurance that their interests, respective interests, will be taken care.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Why do you think the French were opposed to this merger?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, in our countries, I think there is such a thing of the fear of the unknown, loss of jobs.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Yeah.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
I don't-- blame governments if they get worried about these things.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Yeah. With-- with-- tell me why you were so wise about this economic picture for India? I mean we did you know that-- that even industry didn't know and that so many politicians didn't know when you took over as finance minister in '91?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I don't-- claim that I had-- any-- extraordinary vision. But I had been associated--

CHARLIE ROSE:
But you've been right--

MANMOHAN SINGH:
But I have been associated with the management of the Indian economy. Ever since 1971. Even my work as an economist-- when I was in the academic field, was also about economic management of. And-- I've seen-- administration in our countries from several angles. I saw in the ministry of commerce, I saw it in the ministry of finance. I went to Reserve bank of India. I was on the planning commission. There's a whole--service I got. And I would like to give credit to Rajiv Gandhi. Because he saw when he became the Prime Minister in 1985 that India has to change. So a lot of work was done. There was a broad consensus among the thinking segment of our population that India has to liberalize. That the old command economy cannot I think-- give India the mileage, the dividends that we need in terms of growth. And so my task in '91 was relatively easy.

CHARLIE ROSE:
But when you took over the Indian economy was in terrible shape.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, the-- in-- inside I find democracies sometimes a crisis is a blessing. That it concentrates the mind.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Like the hang man's noose.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
And there were Americans saying don't fix it.

CHARLIE ROSE:
If it ain't broke don't fix it.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
If it ain't broke-- so if things are moving alright I think-- you do not get the momentum to get a cohesive consensus built in favor of change. In '91 I said to my colleagues and I said to the leaders of the opposition that if you don't cooperate with me I will have to declare India bankrupt and hand over the economy to the IMF and international--
CHARLIE ROSE:
That got their attention didn't it. (LAUGHS) Based on that your-- let me put-- think about the year 2050. Tell me what will be the-- not in terms of-- of--

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Twenty?

CHARLIE ROSE:
2050, two thousand-- two thousand fifty, 44 years from now. Tell me what will be the first and the second and the third largest economy in the world.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I-- I really don't know. I-- I can't I think predict because of human evolution or economic evolution. But I do believe whatever order you have India would figure in the first four or five countries.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Most people think three. Goldman Sachs has his famous report--

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Yes.

CHARLIE ROSE:
--as you know, that says three by maybe 2025.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I hope they're right. But I-- I-- as I said I-- I'm not very good at making these projections. But I do know the processes that we have unleashed in our country we I think insure that India is there in the first four or five.

CHARLIE ROSE:
And what about, as many people say, how are you gonna take care of the poor? How are you gonna make sure that the agricultural population finds a way to live?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, let me say-- I've always believed that the ultimate purpose of economic policies and development policy is to meet the basic needs of our people. And for that we needed fast expanding economy. Meaningful solutions to the problems of mass poverty that prevails in our country I believe can really be found in the framework of an expanding economy. If the economy is not expanding redistribution of income becomes a zero sum gain. And therefore all the class struggle and it becomes much more vicious.
If the economy is growing fast there is scope for redistributing incomes from the rich to the poor to place-- to put in place social safety net. For example we have done that this year. We have said that in rural areas there will be guaranteed employment 400 days in public works for whosever wants to come make minimum wages. Now this is not a very revolutionary program but it will put a flow on income in rural areas. It is a program of the type which has probably few other counterparts in the rest of the world.
So out emphasis is if the economy grows enough, fast enough, the tax system should be modernized so that the tax revenues rise fast enough also. And we should put more money in education. We should put more money in health. We should put more money in devising credible social safety nets for the poor.

CHARLIE ROSE:
What is it about the Indian people that have enabled with these change in policies to have come to this moment?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I've always believed India is a country blessed by-- of-- blessed by God with enormous entrepreneurial skills. Now this entre-- entrepreneurial spirits were kept suppressed by the command and control system. That started off well with good intentions, maybe it served us well in the beginning. But after time it became a factor on further progress.
I believe if we remove these factors the-- the flowering of the entrepreneurial spirit of India would I think bring about a dramatic change in the way our economy works and function. And that is happening. In '91 where was the IT industry? I think Mr. Naryanamurthy, Mr. Premji they were all I think insignificant entities.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Now they're giant global concerns.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
With one single thing I-- I think Naryanamurth is (UNINTEL) about. When I became Finance Minister in '91 I discovered that the wealth tax rates, the taxation of wealth, there was taxation on wealth. It was so atrocious and so high that actually nobody could accumulate money in an honest way. I removed that tax. And the result was that Indian companies for the first time acquired an incentive to grow big, to grow rich. And you see the results of that in Bangalore, you see it happening elsewhere.
So I am convinced the entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian people if allowed to express themselves freely in the market place India will be alright.

CHARLIE ROSE:
What is the impact of your demographics? You're very different say from China.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I think our demographics is going to help us the grow at a faster pace. Because the Chinese insistence on one child norms I think the proportion of older non working age population is going to rise sharply in China. Our age profile is much younger. The proportion of working population to total population will rise for another decade.
And if we can find jobs for this population that is going to be a source of wealth creation. And they are saying that it will go up. India's investment rate will go up. And I believe that's a plus point.

CHARLIE ROSE:
India and the United States seem to have beyond the oldest democracy and the largest democracy this special relationship period. You have a daughter that lives in New York. Your National Security Advisor has a son who lives and works in New York. Your Finance Minister went to Harvard Business School. There has been this tradition, there's a large Indian population in New York. Is that gonna continue? Is that a central part of this relationship?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, let me-- so in the evolving global economy the transport revolution, the IT revolution.

CHARLIE ROSE:
The death of distance.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
The death of distance. There is hardly any middle class family in India who doesn't have a son, a daughter, a son-in-law, a brother, a brother-in-law in the United States. That is a very powerful new bond. And what is more is that-- I should like to express our profound gratitude to the-- Americans of Indian origin. The way they have conducted themselves, the way they have worked hard to carve out a niche for themselves in the Silicone Valley, I think this has also given American a new idea about what India is capable of.
Our challenge is as I often say is to do what the Indian Americans have done in the Silicone Valley without going there. That we can reproduce a system here.

CHARLIE ROSE:
When you look at India today it's moment, tell me what you think it's destiny is.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, India's destiny is what I described in '91 quoting Victor Hugo. The emergence of India as a major global power is an idea whose time has come. And I would only modify it by what Nehru said. He said the sudden rise of India means the service of those steaming millions steeped in poverty, ignorance and disease. To see that in my lifetime we can soften these harsh edges of extreme poverty and unleash a new economic and social revolution which will bring out the latent creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of our people I think that's what I feel I think.

CHARLIE ROSE:
And if that's the destiny of India how do you-- what do you think your legacy is?

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, I'm a small person put in this big chairs. What-- I have to do my duty, whatever task is allotted to me. I-- I think-- well, for me it's enough I think since '91 I have been in part of the process of-- actually in the reform movement. Of course no single person can take credit for that. I mentioned the role-- the role of Rajiv Gandhi. But I think whatever I've done I hope I earned a footnote in India's long history.

CHARLIE ROSE:
And you certainly have, and it will be even more likely if the President comes on Wednesday and says we have a nuclear agreement, and I'm full supportive of India's desire to be-- have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. That would be a great gift.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, it will be a great gift. And I pray for that moment in which I think we can acclaim to the world that we are now in a different new era of Indo American relationship of trust, of working together, partnership. Strengthened both by our commitment to common values and also the identity of interests.

CHARLIE ROSE:
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for taking this time. It's been a pleasure--

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Thank you Mr. Rose.

CHARLIE ROSE:
--to be in your company. And a pleasure to see you. And I look forward to many, many visits back.

MANMOHAN SINGH:
Well, please do. And it has been a great pleasure for me talking to you.

Courtesy: The Indian Embassy, Washington, DC





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Sub: PM's interview

It's a truly nice one. P.M. came out as a sincere Statesman, wishing grwoth and prosperity of neighbors. It is surprizing to note that there ...


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