These remarks were given during an event at Gateway House. Click here to view more details.
Namaskar to all of you.
I want to start by saying, ‘We are back’. We came back with a big majority, and we are back in power to run the country for the next five years. There are many reasons for the mandate that people gave us, but I will highlight two important ones. Firstly, people wanted a stable and strong government at the centre. That is the reason why they gave us a very comfortable majority. I do not hesitate to admit before this enlightened audience that it was beyond our own expectations and assessment also. Secondly, people also wanted a decisive and strong leadership. They found that in Prime Minister Modi.
Many people wanted to know: what will Modi 2.0 look like?
It consists of two aspects. At one level, it will be a continuum. We have initiated many major reforms, started many important initiatives in the last five years. We have to take them forward. That will remain one of the priorities. But then the new government has come with new expectations from the people as also with new challenges, domestic as well as international.
As far as the domestic challenges are concerned, I am not trying to boast about our strength, but we really do not see any major political challenge before us. It will probably take many years before such a one arises. We are very comfortably placed – and are ready to tackle any challenge politically.
More and more people are attracted to the BJP and Prime Minister Modi’s policies. As far as domestic politics is concerned, it appears as though the next five years will not be as challenging as the last five have been. But then we have challenges in the form of the slowing down of the economy. That will be one of the priority areas for us. We attempted many significant reforms in the last five years. You know about the Goods and Services Tax (GST); the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC); and many others, such as the recapitalisation of the nationalised banks.
We will be taking many more proactive measures in the coming months. You all know that we have very ambitious goals for our economy. We talked about reaching $5 trillion in the next five to seven years’ time and this is not a small challenge for us. We are also conscious about the immediate challenges, like job creation, boosting domestic investments and several others, which we will be focusing on.
Internationally, there are certain immediate neighbourhood challenges. India’s stature and prestige in the world have gone up in the last five years. Hence, we do not foresee any major complications in terms of dealing with challenges in the immediate neighbourhood. India, in the last five years under Prime Minister Modi, has also demonstrated an eagerness to play a more proactive role in global affairs.
I urge you to read the joint statement of Prime Minister Modi and President Obama in 2014. Prime Minister Modi was in the United States for his maiden UN address. The joint statement had one important sentence that talked about India’s ambition to play a proactive role in world politics. It was probably for the first time that an Indian leader had publicly articulated the ambition to rise as an ‘influential and responsible global power’. This was the exact phrase he used – ‘influential and responsible global power.’
I’m sure all of you will acknowledge that in the last four years subsequent to that statement, the government and Prime minister Modi have taken several steps in this direction.
Today we have the first headquarters of an international organisation in Delhi, the International Solar Alliance. But this is minor. The larger point is that we wanted to play a proactive role in the welfare and well-being of the entire world. So, we will be taking a number of steps towards that end. Prime Minister Modi is going to the UN again this September – after a gap of about three years. He will be articulating the new vision of the government of India’s foreign policy there.
We have also, in the last more than two decades, actively turned our attention to the East. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao was the leader who had initiated the Look East Policy in the early 1990s. Subsequently, under Vajpayee, it was renamed the Act East Policy. Prime Minister Modi’s government attaches a lot of importance to our relations to the east of our country as a part of our Act East diplomacy.
We have strong bilateral relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) group of nations. We have even joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a member. We used to have the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC); it has now been upgraded to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). Of late, we are paying more attention to our interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
Thus, there will be much activity to the east of our country. It is already on, but in the coming years, you will see a lot more, the important reason being that the global power axis has today moved closer to the Indo-Pacific region. It is here that the economies of scale exist today; it is where the markets are and where populations with good purchasing power exist. It is here that consumption lies; where massive energy needs are. It is the most happening region in the world. So, we realise that we have to turn our attention in a big way to our eastern neighbourhood. Negotiations are on – on whether India should join the RCEP; if yes, then under what considerations and conditions?
The Prime Minister has tried very hard to maintain good relations with all the neighbouring countries. We have traditional problems with one neighbour, but except for that, we today enjoy fairly good relations with almost all the others. As far as China is concerned, after the experience at Doklam, the two countries have made conscious efforts to strengthen bilateral understanding.
A good aspect about India-China relations today is that the two leaders, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi, enjoy a personal rapport and understanding, which is a very important factor in the relationship between the two countries. The understanding between the leaders goes a long way in managing the affairs of the two countries smoothly.
We had the Wuhan Summit last year, a kind of summit which was unheard of. The two leaders met without an agenda; they met just to have a free discussion about everything under the sun, understand each other’s position and each other’s concerns. It was a major breakthrough in our relations. Later this year, we will see ‘Wuhan 2’ taking place in India. We are hoping that President Xi Jinping will come to India and we will again see a similar informal get-together between the two leaders for a couple of days in one of the Indian cities.
Our effort will be to ensure peace and stability in the neighbourhood. Greater focus will be on securing our interests in the East and strengthening our relationships in our Indian Ocean. India’s interests are better served by looking at the Indian Ocean Region.
While managing relations in the neighbourhood and in the larger world, sometimes domestic challenges also arise, like the recent developments in Kashmir. These were being projected as an international concern, and our neighbour, Pakistan, is trying to take it to the international forum. The government is conscious of it. We knew before we took the decision that there will be efforts to make Kashmir an international issue and for somebody else to come in and negotiate.
India is no longer a pushover today. It has stature and respect in the world. Whatever we have done in Kashmir is strictly an internal matter. It is fully within the framework of the Indian Constitution. No second country will have a right to talk about what we do within the framework of our own Constitution. We will try and explain this to countries and leaders abroad. We really do not see any major problem in doing so.
This is broadly the vision and direction of Modi 2.0.
On the domestic front, it’s the economy and development. We have set certain ambitious developmental goals, which will be our main priority, besides aligning with states for other goals on the domestic front. We have decided to build about 50 million houses for poor families in India by 2022. This also serves as an infrastructure opportunity for many companies and people. Similarly, we have to address joblessness; job creation is a challenge which we will take up in a big way.
The country will certainly witness many more good happenings, happenings which will also enhance India’s prestige and honour globally.
Ram Madhav is an Indian politician, writer and journalist. He is currently serving as the National General Secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He is a former member of the National Executive of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). He is a Member, Board of Governors, of India Foundation, a think tank based in Delhi.
These remarks were given during an event at Gateway House. Click here to view more details.
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