Below is an edited transcript of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's interview with Times Now's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami.
Arnab: How much have you achieved of your own targets?
PM Modi: When I went for the first time as an MP to the Central Hall, and it was the first time I was seeing the Central Hall. I had not been there before. So I had then said that becoming the Prime Minister was not about the designation of the office but it was about the responsibilities and work of being a PM. I had also said that my government would be committed to the poor. I was completely new in the job. Delhi was new for me. The Delhi environment was new to me. The work of the government of India was also new for me. But despite that, in such a short time, the pace at which the country has moved forward, and it's not on one subject.
You can pick up any aspect of the government's functioning, and if you make a comparison with the past governments, then you will realize that no issue has been ignored. There has been an effort to bring in something new in every area.
The entire system was engulfed in disappointment. The big challenge was to inject new trust into the system and create confidence among the citizens. It is very difficult to evaluate this from the outside but I have gone through it. But today I can say with a lot of satisfaction that now there is no trace of any disappointment.
While evaluating the performance of this government, never forget that you will have to make that evaluation in comparison with the 10 years of the previous government. Only then will you know where we were and where we are now. We should not be talking about what we are aiming for. For now you will have to assess the present in comparison with the immediate past and in that you will find a bright future
Arnab: How close are we to getting the NSG seat?
PM Modi: Look the first thing is that India has been continuously making these efforts, no matter which government was in office. Be it the membership of the UN Security Council or the SCO membership or MTCR membership or NSG membership. Every government has made an effort. It's not that only this government is trying, it's in continuity. But it's during our tenure that we achieved SCO membership, we also got the MTCR membership. I have full faith that now we have begun a coordinated effort for the NSG membership too. The process has begun on a positive note. Everything has rules and will work accordingly and move forward.
Arnab: Is it the problem of mindset with China?
PM Modi: The first thing is that we have an ongoing dialogue with China and it should continue to happen. In foreign policy it's not necessary to have similar views to have a conversation. Even when the views are contradictory, talks are the only way forward and problems should be resolved through dialogue.
But the most important thing is that we can speak to China eye-to-eye and put forth India's interests in the most unambiguous manner. We are a government that takes care of Indiaâ€™s interests. We don't compromise on this.
Arnab: Do you think you will be able to change Chinaâ€™s mindset on the issue of NSG membership?
PM Modi: Foreign policy is not about changing mindsets. Foreign policy is about finding the common meeting points. Where do our interests converge and how much? We have to sit and talk with every country. It's our ongoing effort
Arnab: Your speech to the US Congress was appreciated. Was the speech impromptu?
PM Modi: I have a humorous side but these days humour can be a risky thing. In this era of 24/7 news channels, anybody can lift a small word and make a big issue out of it. But I will tell you the truth, the reason for the absence of humour in public life is this fear. I am myself scared. Earlier when I used to make speeches, I would make it so humorous, but there would never be any issues
Arnab: Has Pakistan been proactively responding in the months of October, November and December? Did the Pathankot terror attack change the situation? Is it true that Pakistan was making a lot of movement in those three months?
PM Modi: Look there are different types of forces operating in Pakistan. But the government only engages with a democratically elected system. Our effort for that engagement is continuing. But our supreme objective is peace. Our supreme objective is to protect India's interests. We seek friendly relations but without compromising on our interests. And that is why I have said that my country's soldiers have full freedom to answer back in whatever manner they have to and they will keep doing that. But there is an outcome due to my continuous efforts like my visit to Lahore and my invitation to the Pakistani Prime Minister to come to India. Now I don't have to explain to the world about India's position. The world is unanimously appreciating India's position. And the world is seeing that Pakistan is finding it difficult to respond. Today the world has to accept what India has been saying about terrorism.
Arnab: The price of tomatoes was also rising. Is this only seasonal because the food inflation is increasing at 7.5 per cent year on year. Global oil prices have fallen. Do you think this creates perception issues for your government?
PM Modi: You can't view inflation as a perception issue. Price rise should be seen as a reality. What is available for a consumer should be seen for what it is. There should never be an attempt to view price rise as a perception issue as a means of escaping the reality of price rise. We will have to accept reality. You see the fast pace at which prices were rising under the previous government, today that speed has decelerated a lot. Second, the country has gone through two consecutive years of severe drought. Third, it is the joint responsibility of the state and Central governments.
Arnab: Mr Prime Minister what is your view about the controversy around the exit of Raghuram Rajan as the RBI Governor?
PM Modi: When my Government was formed in May 2014, you take newspapers from May, June, July 2014 and check television debates during that period. The topic of the television debates would be - Will the new govt let Raghuram Rajan continue? Or will the new Government oust Raghuram Rajan? And there was more or less consensus that he was appointed by the previous govt and so Modi won't let him complete his tenure and will remove him. You have seen that he worked his entire tenure. Those who are creating controversies are being unjust to Raghuram Rajan.
I believe Raghuram Rajan's patriotism is no less than any of ours. It will be doing injustice to him if one says that he will serve the country only if he is at a particular post. As much as I know Raghuram Rajan, whatever post he holds, wherever he is, he is someone who will continue to serve the country. He is someone who loves his country. Therefore, it's not like the nation won't get Raghuram Rajan's services, Raghuram Rajan is not that kind of a person. He is a person who loves the country. Those who speak such language are doing great injustice to him. My experience with him has been good. I appreciate the work he has done. And my good wishes will always be with him
Arnab: In Raghuram Rajan's context, your Rajya Sabha MP has made many comments. Later he made critical remarks against senior bureaucrats. My question is, do you think it is right?
PM Modi: Whether it is someone from my party or not, I believe that such things are inappropriate. The nation won't benefit from such publicity stunts. One should be more responsible while conducting themselves. Anyone who believes he is bigger than the system is wrong.
Arnab: That's a very clear message.
PM Modi: I have a very clear message. I have no two minds about it.
Arnab: The hope that people have taking Black Money, how will you address it?
PM Modi: Even today I can say...that yes, when there is money stashed in foreign accounts, there are some norms of engagement with foreign countries on the issue. Between 2011-2014, these people were given the opportunity to launder money here and there.
I recently visited Switzerland and there was minimal discussion on the issue. But after I returned, a big delegation from Switzerland visited India, and they held meeting with the Indian Government/ That country is holding discussions to come to a consensus on Automatic Information Exchange and if we reach consensus it will be a great achievement. Our government held a dialogue with the Mauritius Government, made changes to the old treaty. And we successfully made a new treaty to block the money which comes through the Mauritius route and very soon it will be phased out and completed.
Arnab: Has Prime Minister Narendra Modi been held back from achieving his own objectives because of the non-stop parliamentary logjam. Do you feel your government could have been more consultative or do you feel the blame is entirely with the Opposition?
PM Modi: I look at it differently. I believe there have been a lot of problems. Whether the fault is ours or theirs, Iâ€™ll leave it to the people. People will decide. But because of discussions in Parliament - we may not come to a decision, the decision could be opposing our view, nothing wrong in that. But at least there should be a discussion. The sad part is, if somebody is running away from debate or don't let discussions happen, then it is a cause of worry in a democracy.
In the last session, we have passed 12 bills in Rajya Sabha, we passed 10 bills in the Lok Sabha. So the pace has picked up.
Arnab: Do you feel optimistic that GST bill will be passed in the next session of the Parliament? Jayalalithaa is against it.
PM Modi: First we need to understand, that we look at GST only within the purview of an economic reform because of which the right information doesn't come out. Not having GST straight away means loss for the poor of Uttar Pradesh. Absence of GST straight away means loss for the poor people of Bihar. Not passing the GST would mean loss for the poor people of poor states like Bengal, Orissa and Assam. People who sit in the Rajya Sabha must understand this. This is why be it Mamata Banerjee, be it Nitish Kumar, be it Akhilesh Yadav or Naveen Patnaik, all these states want the GST bill to be passed at the earliest. There is just one group which has made it the issue of prestige. Now the kind of arithmetic which is working out, I hope that this decision is passed in favour of the poor.
Arnab: You had invited former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi here at the Race Course Road. The word you used was 'ego issue', why has it become an ego issue?
PM Modi: The Prime Minister cannot answer this question. Those creating obstructions can only answer this question. But despite this, I will keep trying. I am ready to convince them in whichever way possible. If I have to convoke someone over a cup of tea at their house, I am even ready for that.
Arnab: Is there a need to control the hot heads who make extreme comments?
PM Modi: Firstly, I am of the firm belief that the nation should progress on the issue of development. And it is necessary that the country moves forward on the issue of development. I would like to tell the media not to make heroes out of those people who make such comments. Don't make them heroes, they will stop. I see such statements by people on TV, whose faces I haven't even seen and they end up becoming spokesmen on TV.
Arnab: Is 2019 anywhere in your mind?
PM Modi: Those who have seen me in Gujarat, and those who have seen me in the last two years, those who see me without any bias, they will know that I am an apolitical Prime Minister. Apart from elections, I don't get involved into politics ever. You can call elections a necessity, a restraint or a responsibility, we have to have them.
My focus is on governance. Country has been at greatest loss because governments were run only for elections. Governments must not run only for elections. The government should be a bona fide attempt of meeting the demands and expectations of the common people. Elections should just be a bi-product. It is a democracy. Winning and losing is a part of it. It shouldn't be hyped.
Arnab asks what motivates him
Day before yesterday, I was in Pune, and met a Shrimaan Chandrakant ji. A retired teacher with a pension of Rs 16000, donates Rs 5000 every month for Swachh Abhiyaan. If a 70 year old retired teacher with children and family at home, without worrying about them, worries about the country, then being the Prime Minister, I should work a thousand times more than Chandrakant ji. This is my inspiration. People of this country who work day and night, they are my inspiration. I look at them and I work even harder.