PM's on-board press conference en-route from Rome to New Delhi
Manmohan Singh: I am returning to India after attending meetings of the G 5 leaders (India, Brazil, China, Mexico and South Africa) , of the G5 + G 8 and Egypt, and of the G 8, G 5, Egypt and African Countries. There were also meetings of the Major Economies Forum on Trade and Climate Change.
These meetings took place when the world is attempting a recovery from the recession caused by the financial crisis in the heart of the developed world. After our discussions, it is my sense that while there are some signs of recovery, the world economy is still a long way from recovering the earlier growth momentum and there must be questions whether that will soon be possible for the global economy.
We also discussed other global issues such as Climate Change and Sustainable Development, and the elimination of hunger through food security. On trade, the dangers of protectionism were highlighted. It is clear to me that meaningful global action on all these issues requires a restructuring of the institutions of global governance, starting with the UN Security Council. The sentiment has been recognized in the declarations of our meetings.
I return home convinced that we must continue to strengthen our steps at home to regain the 8-10 % growth path. The international environment will not be as supportive as before for some time to come. I am however, confident that our domestic economic strengths will enable us to return to our earlier path of rapid and inclusive growth.
I also had useful conversations with the leaders of Angola, Japan, the USA, Russia, the UK, Australia, our host Italy, and several other world leaders.
About the discussions on climate change: Where does India stand in regard to reduction of emissions?
Manmohan Singh: We are not able to undertake quantified emission reduction targets but we are also quite clear that as citizens of the global economy we have an obligation to do our bit to control emissions and therefore all countries have an obligation to be prepared to depart from business as usual.
In my own statement I said we are quite alive to the dangers of climate change; in fact we recognize climate change is already taking place. We recognize our responsibility to do more by way of mitigation as well as by way of adaptation. In this context I presented India's climate action plan and I mentioned about the eight national missions which we have set up in this regard. We are willing to do more provided there are credible arrangements to provide both additional financial support as well as technological transfers from developed to developing countries so that green sustainable development can really become an effective instrument of strengthening the atmosphere to tackle climate change.
Aap jin lakshyon ko lekar yehan aye kitni santhusti huee? [How many of your objectives with which you came here were fulfilled?]
Manmohan Singh: Yeh bahut badi struggle hai. Bharat ke jo vichar hai unko maine G-8, G-5 meeting me, duniya ke tamaam states unke saamne rakha hai. Mera yeh maana hai ke hamaare viewpoint ka kaafi appreciation hai. Lekhin abhi yeh kehna unchit nehin hoga ki baakhi sab mulk hamaare se sehmat hai; khaas thour climate change pe Bharat aur China par dabaav badnewala hai. Usko humne rokhna hai saath saath humne duniya ko jathana hai ki hum global citizens ke roopme bharat ki responsibilities ko samajthe hai. Hum jo bhi munasib hoga climate change ko rokne ke liye hum karenge aur hum kar rahe hai
It is a very big struggle. I placed India's point of view before the world in the G-8 + G-5 meetings. I believe that our viewpoint is quite appreciated. But it would not be correct to say that all other countries are in agreement with us - particularly, on climate change, India and China are going to face increasing pressure. We have to stop that (or withstand?) that and along with that we have to show to the world that we understand our responsibilities as global citizens. We will do whatever is possible to stop climate change -- and, we are already doing it.
It is said that if the monsoons are good and the US economy recovers, the
Indian economy will revive. What happens if the EU economy slips?
Manmohan Singh: In my statement yesterday I did mention that all available indicators for 2009 point to a deceleration in the US economy, in the European Union economies and, therefore, one can say that the global environment for the development of the countries of the Third World has undergone a sharp deterioration. Our exports have suffered, capital flows from abroad have declined, international bank lending to the developing countries has declined and therefore the challenge before us is to sustain and revive the growth momentum which we have built up in the last five years, notwithstanding the deterioration in the international environment for development.
It is not going to be easy but I am convinced that India's savings rate which is as high as 35 %, with a normal capital output ratio of 4:1 we should be able to sustain, with a little bit extra effort, a growth rate of about 8 to 9 percent, notwithstanding the difficulties on the international front.. So I remain confident that India will come out of this crisis stronger but the road ahead is also going to be a difficult road to traverse.
UPA I and UPA II, any change in your agenda?
Manmohan Singh: I have always viewed that our role as a government is to enable our country to get rid of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease which still afflict millions and millions of our people. We have made some important gains in the last five years. We managed to impart to our economy a stronger growth momentum, we strengthened the forces which make for inclusive social and economic development, we have put in place social safety nets which soften the harsh edges of extreme poverty substantially. But this is a long and arduous journey and our challenge is to take full advantage of the instrumentalities which are now in place for inclusive growth to plug loopholes, to reduce leakages and to ensure that these instruments become more effective instruments of social and economic change, accelerated growth, more inclusive development and more emphasis on rural development and agriculture. So it is a continuation of the journey we undertook for five years, with renewed commitment and with renewed determination even though we must recognize that the international environment is not as supportive as we had imagined at one time.
There apparently is an impasse with Pakistan, is there anything that India can do to break that impasse?
Manmohan Singh: I have often said India and Pakistan are close neighbours, we can choose our friends but we have no choice with regard to our neighbours. I have always believed that for India to realize its development ambitions, to realize its place in the comity of nations, requires to work with its neighbours to bring about peace and amity in South Asia. And we will do all that is necessary to resolve all outstanding issues that have bedevilled India's relations with Pakistan. But it requires credible action on the part of Pakistan to deal with terrorist elements directing their energy to disrupt and destabilize our economy and polity.
So I look forward to the meeting with Prime Minister Gilani for an exchange of views and I do hope that out of that meeting we will have a renewed reaffirmation on the part of Pakistan that they will bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai massacre to justice, that they will not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist acts directed against our country. If they do that we are willing to walk more than half the distance to normalize our relations.
IT and textiles have been badly affected by the global slowdown, do you see the situation getting worse or getting better?
Manmohan Singh: As far as IT is concerned, the world financial system was the greatest source of demand for our IT services. I think things are stabilizing -- the global financial system seems to have reached a new plateau. It is not a high growth plateau; so I do expect there should be some improvement in the international environment for IT.
And also with regard to exports of textiles and garments, I do feel that if the world economy can effectively stand up against protectionist sentiments, the demand pressures can move in the reverse direction as well. It is also possible to do more at home to create demand for IT services. I think given the e governance processes in our own country, we have a vast unexplored market and we can take full advantage of the global slowdown, the Indian Information Technology industry need not face such a bleak future.
You have been talking about the need for reforms in the UN structure specially the Security Council, how do you feel your views have been received by other leaders ?
Manmohan Singh: There is today growing support that the international structures and systems which were put in place soon after the end of the WW II, they are not reflective of the current realities of the global structures and global equations. There is a growing support for the view that the Security Council membership should be enlarged both in the permanent category members as well as in the non permanent category members. And countries like India have a legitimate claim to be considered for permanent membership of the Security Council.
But having said that let me also say that International relations in the final sense are power relationships. And no body gives up power willingly; those who have the power want to hold on, so I don't think an easy solution is in sight. It will have to be a long drawn out struggle and I do believe that we have every reason to feel that in the long run our views will prevail.
Zardari se roos me mile the ab Gilani se mil rahe hai, kya is beech kuch progress hua? Doosri baath dunia ke leadron ko Pakisatan ke ooper dabhav dalne ke liya aapne baath kiya? [After meeting Zardari in Russia, you are now going to meet Gilani. Has there been any progress in this period? Secondly, have you talked to world leaders asking them to put pressure on Pakistan?]
Manmohan Singh: Dekhiye, meri jo Zardari sahib se bath hui thi, uski baad hamare high commissioner ki bath cheeth hui hai, ISI chief ke saath hui hai, Foreign Office ke saath hui hai. Unhonne kuch sujaav di hai, jaankari di hai ki woh Mumbai main joh massacre hua tha unke apradhiyon ko dhand dene keliye kya kuch kar rahe hain. Abhi hamein umeed hai ki kuch aur woh shayad is disha main aage badenge. Yeh umeed hai aur is umeed ke saath Prime Minister Gilani sahib ke saath baath karoonga.
Doosri cheez main yeh kahna chahta hun ki jahan bhi meri bath hui hai, G8 G5 aur har ek forum mein mai bharat ke jo vichaar hai ke ham terrorism ki victim hai, 25-30 saal se terrorism hamara desh ko destabilize karne ki koshish kar raha hai. Aur iskeliye koun log zimevar hai uske evidence bhi hai. Joh duniya ki thamam leaderon ke meri yahi appeal rahthi hai ki woh Pakistan par is baath par dabav dalen ki woh terrorism ke rasthe ko chodkar dosthi ke rasthe par bharath ke saath aage baden.
After my meeting with Mr Zardari, there have been discussions with our High Commissioner, with the ISI chief and the Foreign Office. They have have given some suggestions, some information on what they are doing about punishing those behind the Mumbai massacre. We hope that they will move forward some more in that direction. And I will meet with Mr Gilani with this hope.
Secondly, I wish to say that wherever I have talked to leaders in the G-8 and
G-5 and other fora, there is appreciation for India's stand that it has been a
victim of terrorism for the last 25-30 years which has tried to destabilise our
country and there is a lot of evidence against the people responsible for it.
Our appeal to all the international leaders has been that they should put
pressure on Pakistan to leave the path of terrorism and proceed forward with
Indian on the path of friendship.
Delhi HC recently gave a ruling on Section 377 of the IPC. Has the Govt. crystallized its views on whether to appeal further on it?
Manmohan Singh: I haven't discussed this matter with my cabinet Colleagues and when I go back, I will seek their views as to if anything further needs to be done or said in this regard.
Can we expect more private experts in government following Nandan Nelakani's induction into the government?
Manmohan Singh: I would like to involve more and more intellectuals in the processes of governance of our country. It is a process, and we have made a beginning and it is my hope that in due course of time, we can enlarge this process. We need all the wisdom, knowledge and experience and there is enormous reserve of knowledge, wisdom and experience available outside the political system. It has to be harnessed in the service of the Indian people. It will be my effort to do so at a pace at which it does not create any side-effects. I think Nandan Nilekani's appointment has been widely welcomed and I sincerely hope that in due course of time we can enlarge the involvement of top intellectual elements in the processes of governance.
Rail budget 2008 aur rail budget 2009 surplus me bada farak hai- aap ka rai kya hai? There is a lot of difference between Rail Budget 2008 and Rail Budget 2009 surplus. What is your opinion on it?
Manmohan Singh: Aankaron par vichar kiyaa jaa saktha hai. Mai ne detailed me dekha nahin hai itna Railway Mantri ne bathaya hai ki is silsile me white paper jaari karnewalli hai tho muje umeed hai yeh white paper is masle pe jaankhari dega ki kya wajeh hai, kiyoon hua hai aur kya kiya jaa saktha hai.
We can think about the figures. I have not seen in detail. The railway
minister has said that she is going to issue a white paper in this regard and I
trust this white paper will throw light on this issue as to the reasons, why it
happened and what can be done about it.
In Yekaterinburg you were frank with President Zardari. Is it back to business as usual with Pakistan and do such messages work.
Manmohan Singh: Well, there are difficulties, But I have not given up hope. Let me say that what I had said to Zardari Sahib, I had not intended to say that in the presence of all the media. I simply forgot that the media were present there. It was not my intention in anyway to hurt Zardari Sahib's feelings.
Can Doha round be concluded early.
Manmohan Singh: We have a strong interest in the success of the multilateral trade negotiations, because we as a country are not member of any regional groups, so we need a rule based, liberal multilateral trading system to realize our development ambitions. And we have an obligation to contribute to the success of the Doha round. We also hope that the world will recognize that the Doha round started with the promise of making development the centrepiece of global trade negotiations. If those commitments are honoured, I don't think there would be problems in reaching the satisfactory outcome of the Doha round.
A perception that Obama may be good for the world, but not for India. Your meetings with him?
Manmohan Singh: I find President Obama to be very supportive of India's development ambitions. He has great admiration for India. I spent considerable time this morning, he and I were sitting side by side in the session on Agriculture. We exchanged notes on a large number of issues and I look forward to my visit to Washington to meet with him and as I said earlier, we have invited President Obama to pay us a visit and therefore there is no basis for apprehension that the Obama Administration will be less sensitive to India's concerns than the previous US Administration.
I find him very supportive of India, that he mentioned to me on more than one occasion in the last 2 days, that is the impression he gave me in London, and that is the consistent impression that I have got that we have a very responsive President Obama, as far as India's aspirations are concerned.