Manmohan Singh: Ladies and gentlemen, I have had a very productive and fruitful two-day visit to Myanmar. I had the opportunity of fairly detailed discussions with President Thein Sein. I also had the privilege of having a fairly long conversation with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Our relations with Myanmar have taken a new turn after the visit of the President of Myanmar to India in October, and what we have discussed and agreed upon yesterday has further strengthened our multifaceted relationship with a friendly neighbour that Myanmar is.
I believe Foreign Secretary has briefed you about the details of what we have been talking, what we have agreed upon, and what is the way forward. I will be very happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Good evening, Mr. Prime Minister. You seem to have had a historic visit. What do you say would be the single biggest message that you delivered to the Myanmar government?
That India is very appreciative of the efforts being made by the President of Myanmar for national reconciliation and democratisation, and it is our fond hope that this process will be carried forward for the good of the people of Myanmar as a whole.
Sir, is there a common thread between the discussions you had with President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi?
I had a whole range of issues being discussed between me and the President of Myanmar. But most of my discussion with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was concentrated on the process of national reconciliation and how development can be made more inclusive, how the process of development can be really made people-friendly, and have greater transparency. She is now a legislator, and she was telling me the difficulties that the ordinary people find in accessing various services being provided by the Government. And I said we have the same problem, and despite long experience we do not claim that we have all the answers to these problems. I also said to her that our problems are very similar, judging from what she told me, and that we would be very happy to engage with the Government and people and civil society of Myanmar. Not that we have something to tell Myanmar what to do or what not to do but to work out joint common pathways to find productive, mutually acceptable solutions to these difficult problems of development and inclusion.
Sir, in the Northeast there are four states which border Myanmar. There are lots of concerns about insurgent groups who operate from areas across the border in Myanmar. Was this issue discussed?
I had a detailed discussion with His Excellency the President on this issue, the problems that Indian insurgent groups pose to us in taking shelter in Myanmar to evade arrest and to commit acts of violence. And I have assurance from the President of Myanmar that they would make every effort to ensure that Myanmar territory is not used for anti-Indian operations, and that we should strengthen cooperation in ensuring that our borders on both sides are as peaceful as is humanly possible.
As you did during your visit to Dhaka when you carried with yourself Northeastern Chief Ministers, don’t you think similar venture this time would have given greater dividends because many states have common borders with Myanmar?
I do recognize problems are very similar, and what I discussed would have been of interest to all the Northeastern states. I am conscious of that fact. But quite frankly, I felt that we had not prepared for this visit that fully as to find out practical, pragmatic solutions to the problems of border management. Therefore, I thought that we should first discuss basic principles and modalities and that should take place sooner or later.
Sir, kuch din pahle team Anna ke jo log hain, unhone puri ki puri press conference karke, bakaida charge sheet karke, jisme 15 cabinet mantriyo ke naam hai, apka bhi naam tha, lag bhag puurii senior team ke khilaaf a arop lagaaye hain. Sarkar ki taraf se abhi tak koi jawab nahi aaya hai. Kya aap in tamaam aaropo par jawab dena chaahenge jo ki sarkar par lagaaye ja rahe hai aur jis tarah ki bhaashaa boli jaa rahi hai?
[Sir, a few days back, Team Anna did a detailed press conference in which they have produced a charge-sheet against 15 cabinet ministers, including you and the entire senior cabinet. There has so far not been any response from the government. Would you want to respond to all these charges levelled against the government and the language that is being used?]
Well, I would like to read a prepared statement on this subject. First of all the charges that have been levied against me in my capacity as a coal minister for sometime, I believe that the coal minister has given out a statement. The coal ministry’s case is on the website of the ministry. And I can be therefore very brief. There have been reports about the allocation of coal blocks based on leaked portions of a draft CAG report on the issue. We have also received a letter on the same subject. The coal minister has given factual details in response to these allegations and the coal ministry has put up all the information on its website. We have not yet received the CAG report. When we do, the government will submit its detailed factual response before the Public Accounts Committee as per constitutional procedure. Uninformed allegations and discussions based on leaked drafts are unfortunate.
As regards to other 14 colleagues of mine, I will only say that it is unfortunate that irresponsible allegations are being made without confirming the facts.
Sir kya aap isiko hindi me bolnaa chaahenge? [Sir, would you like to say this in Hindi?]
Bharat ki janta is baat ka faisla kare ki kya kasoor kiya hai Pradhan Mantri ne jo ki itne kathin aur kathor shabd unkey liye istemaal kiye jaa rahen hain. [The people of India should decide what crime the Prime Minister has committed that such difficult and strong words are being used for him.] . Agar mainey koi beimaani kee baat kee hai to mera tamaam public career— chahe vo finance minister, chaahe leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, chaahe Prime Minister ho — is an open book. [If I have done any dishonesty, my entire public career — be it as finance minister, be it as the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, or as the Prime Minister — is an open book. Koi bhee agar issmein ilzaam lagata hai to uski pushti karayen. [Any one who makes such allegations should back them up.] Aur agar usmein jara bhee sach nikalata hai to main [And if it turns out that there is even an element of truth in these charges] I will give up my public career and country can give me any punishment. But to use such words which are being used without reason or rhyme, I think the public of India should make up its mind to whether this sort of politics should rule the roost in the country.
Rupee appreciation [depreciation?] is alarming, oil prices are going up, your reaction on it? Are we going back to 1991 situation?
The situation is a cause of concern, but I do not think we are anywhere near the 1991 situation. The fall of the Rupee is taking place against the background of what is taking place in the global economic scene, the Eurozone crisis. And, therefore, the Foreign Institutional Investors and the Foreign Direct Investors are hesitant to go to countries where they were earlier very positive in investing. I believe this is a phenomenon which is not going to last very long. One way or the other, European countries have come to terms with the crisis that prevails in Europe. The global economy is also facing challenges. And I sincerely hope that the G20 meeting next month in Mexico will come to terms with some of these issues. Hopefully some credible solutions about better management of the international financial system will emerge. But I do agree that the situation as it is, is hurting even the emerging economies. India and other emerging economies like South Africa are also affected by this turn of events.
On insurgents from Northeast India using Myanmar soil:
Ji discuss hua hai, bahut gambhirta se is baat par baatcheet hui hai. [Yes, this was discussed with great seriousness and in detail] Lekin is se zyada main kuchh kehna nahin chahunga [But I will not wish to say more than this]. Jaisa ki main ne pehle kaha, President of Myanmar ne mujhe yeh assure kiya hai ki unki puri puri koshish hogi ki Myanmar ki territory ko Bhartiya shaktion ke khilaaf koi kaam karne ki koi dheel nahin deni chahiye. [As I said earlier, the President of Myanmar has reassured me that he will try his best that no leeway is given so as to allow the territory of Myanmar to be used against India]. Unhon ne yeh mujhe kaha ki aap hamein is baat ki jaankari dein, batayein kahan par yeh insurgents kaam kar rahein hain to hum aapke saath milkar aapko sahyog denge. [He told me that we should tell them where the insurgents are working so that they can co-operate with us].
Sir, there has been talk of making you as the next president, is this something you are looking forward to?
I am quite happy where I am.
Can you give a comment on what the Army Chief is up to. Right now he is bringing all kinds of allegations. Your reaction on it?
Sometime silence is the golden.