Transcript Of The President Of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee Interview With Mr. Philip Lote Of Nrk News In Oslo, Norway
Question: What is, as President of India, your comment on this year’s noble peace prize?
Answer: I express deep appreciation to the Norwegian Peace Committee’s for its decision to choose two illustrious persons from our two neighboring countries – India and Pakistan. One is a young girl but nonetheless her bravery, courage, and conviction speaks of her character. Kailash Satyarthi is a well-recognized social activist in India. Various national and international organizations have honoured him. The decision of Noble Peace Committee to award them is welcome. I have myself congratulated him.
Question: Please comment on India-Norwegian bilateral relations.
Answer: First of all, I would like to express my deep gratitude and appreciation to the King for inviting me to visit his country. This is the first visit by an Indian President/Head of State to Norway. We have good relations and it is multi-faceted. We have substantial trade relations - just 10 years ago trade was very modest. It was about US$150 million - today it is around US$ 1 billion. About US$ 4 billion is the investment of Norway in India. Number of major Indian companies are present in Norway. The cumulative investment of US$ 1.6 million is not substantially very high but it is present in very critical sectors.
The purpose of my visit is to give a new impetus to these relations. Perhaps you have noticed that my delegation is consisting of not only Members of Parliament and Ministers but a big component also consists of young, second generation industrialists in India who are technologically savvy, experts in different modern industries which are primarily based on knowledge. Because we believe, like Norway, that technology, research, development and the overall level of education is going to be the order of the day. Knowledge based society is no longer a dream but a reality. I believe our working forces, specially our technical personnel, engineers, scientists and management personnel are quite competent and are providing valuable services wherever they are deployed in different sectors in Norway. My business and academic delegations will have discussions with their counterparts. We would like to build a larger cooperative frame work in which both countries mutually benefit in research, development and education, specially higher education. The purpose of my visit is to therefore ensure that the good relations which exists amongst ourselves -the trade, investment and commercial relations – gets added to it a new dimension of cooperation in education, especially research, development and innovation, which I believe will be mutually beneficial to both our countries.
Question: In many ways we are moving to a multi-polar world where there are not one big power but many big powers. How does India fit in this multi-polar world?
Answer: We have always believed in a multi-polar world. We do not believe in a bipolar or unipolar world. For instance, some countries have tremendous military power. Some have tremendous financial power. Similarly, some countries have tremendous intellectual power. Therefore where do you fix the pole? The world cannot be unipolar or bipolar - it is multipolar. Secondly, we believe in pluralism – pluralism not just in our social or administrative structures but pluralism in the whole world. The world is shrinking today and truly emerging as a global village. Today, we do not think of a country as merely confined to its geographical territory. We know very well that events and incidents in one part of the world can affect a large part of the rest of the world and a large number of human beings may be affected. Therefore, I believe that we should work for peaceful co-existence of various countries, ideas and principles. There should be no conflict. And if there is conflict, it must be resolved through peaceful negotiations, discussion and debate, not by use of force or threat of use of force. This has been our philosophy which is rooted in our core civilizations values.
Question: What do you see as India’s major strength in this global world?
Answer: The biggest strength of India is its successful multi-party parliamentary democratic system. Very recently, we conducted our general elections. The total number of our electorate was more than 800 million people. Over 60% of them cast their vote. This largest multi-party functional democracy in the world has successfully worked since our independence in 1947. There were many sceptics who thought our experiment with parliamentary democracy on the basis of adult suffrage where a large number of persons are illiterate, backward, poverty stricken, divided into various regions, languages and religions would fail. They wondered how this sophisticated political institution could be successful. But later on all these sceptics became great admirers of our system and everybody now acknowledge that India has successfully implemented this sophisticated instrumentality of democratic functioning.
The second strength is that India not only has a large population of 1.2 billion people but we are also at the same time an ancient civilization and a young nation. The third strength is, our large number of young, technically competent people. They are providing soft power to us.
Finally, like all mature democracies, we believe in the rule of law, pluralism in society, tolerance, acceptance of other views and functioning within the framework of a Constitution which provides for equality, fraternity and liberty to each and every individual. Our constitutional commitment, institutional framework, young population, inheritance of the old civilization and its values and capacity to absorb modern technology and build up a scientific temperament – I believe these are the core strengths of India.
Question: India and China are two major giants of Asia, as a former Minister of External, you have followed foreign affairs very closely. Norway at this time is enjoying a very poor relationship with China. Is this the right moment for Norway to build better relationship with India, to seek the opportunities in India.
Answer: India’s foreign policy does not look at relations with a country through the prism of a third country. We develop relationships with countries independently and not depending on its relationships with other countries.
Question: But Mr. President, is it a good time for Norway to improve its relations with India - is it a convenient time?
Answer: We are aware that two countries having good relations with us may not have good relations mutually. But that does not affect the relationship between India and these two countries. Therefore, I have used the word that we do not look at relations through the prism of a third country. Each country, has its inherent sovereign right to decide and determine its policies in the context of its national interest. After all, foreign policy is the extension of enlightened national interests. In that context, each country is entitled to determine its policy. We do not sit in judgment on who is right and who is wrong. We build relationships independent of their relationships with others.
Question: If you want to give any advice to Norwegian enterprise who want to seek business opportunities in India what would it be?
Answer: I believe there is huge opportunity to expanding our relations, especially among our young colleagues in the world of business and academics. Let us explore fully the possibilities which exist. For instance, during the visit of your former Prime Minister to India, it was pointed out that present level of investment from the Norwegian Global Pension Fund, which is the largest Pension Fund in the world, is miniscule, at just US$ 4 billion. It can be expanded 5 times or 10 times to USD 20 billion or even USD 40 billion in a period of 10 years or so. I feel that if the business tie ups takes place, technological tie ups take place, and more over, I am emphasizing repeatedly that our collaboration in the areas of research, development and innovation take place through academic institutions, if we can have the appropriate frame work, I am certain both countries will be immensely benefited. That is my suggestion, I cannot give advice.
Question:I spoke to the Norwegian public here this is not on the list of Questions but lot of Norwegians demand I ask this question. During the last two years there have been gang rapes and rapes against women…. (interrupting)
Answer:First of all, these incidents are very unfortunate. We condemn it. Everybody condemns it. This is not India. It is an aberration. It is a perversion. We believe in women power. Our civilizational values, our Constitution, our history gives equal opportunities to our women. I would not like to mention the name but you will find that women’s voting rights - universal suffrage with respect to women - in many of the advanced democracies of Europe and North America were given much later. In India, we gave it on day one when we adopted our Constitution.
Question: How can you build on this heritage and improve the current situation?
Answer: When these types of aberrations take place we have to tackle them. These incidents have received wide spread condemnation within the country. We have tightened the legal frame work, accepted the recommendations of the expert committee to strengthen penal provisions and enhance punishment. One issue being debated now is the involvement of a juvenile in an incident - whether he should be treated at par with adults. All issues related to it, all its aspects are being dealt with- from law enforcement and strengthening the legal frame work to the much more important need to create awareness in society. These have to be tackled with determination. I am quite sure that these are aberrations and that, these aberrations will not continue or will not last. On women’s empowerment, we are doing good work. At the bottom of our democratic structure, we have ensured reservations for women. At the village level and municipal level, 3.3 million elected representatives are entrusted to carry on developmental work at the local government level. Of this, 1/3rd are reserved for women. That means right now more than 1.2 million women are participating in administration at the third level of our democratic system, that is, local government.
Question: I take it from your name that you must be a Bengali. Mr. Mukherjee, do you have a tiny bit of Bengali poetry that you can recite for us?
Answer: I can just give you a quotation from Tagore who describes Indian civilization and says "I do not know from where and from which ages, streams of people came, they mixed, they interacted and ultimately, they melted into one pot and from that one pot a great civilization was created, that is the Indian civilization”.
The President also recited the words in Bengali at the request of the interviewer.
Thank you Mr. President.