Question: Sir, is there a common thread between the discussions you had with President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi?
Prime Minister: A whole range of issues were 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. I said we have the same problem, and despite the long experience, we do not claim we all the have answers to these problems. I also said our problems were very similar, judging from what she told me, and that we would be very happy to engage with the government, people and civil society of Myanmar...
Q: Sir, in the northeast, there are four states that border Myanmar. There are concerns about insurgent groups who operate from across the border in Myanmar. Was this issue discussed?
PM: 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. I have assurance from the President of Myanmar that they would make every effort to ensure that Myanmar territory is not used for anti-India operations, and that we should strengthen cooperation in ensuring that our borders on both sides are as peaceful as is humanly possible.
Q: 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?
PM: I do recognise 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.
Q: Sir, Team Anna had released a list of 15 ministers, including yours, demanding investigation into charges of alleged corruption.
PM: 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 Comptroller and Auditor General (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... We have not yet received the CAG report. When we do, the government will submit its detailed factual response before the Public Accounts Committee... Uninformed allegations and discussions based on leaked drafts are unfortunate. As regards to other 14 colleagues of mine, I will only say it is unfortunate that irresponsible allegations are being made without confirming the facts.
Q: Rupee depreciation is alarming, domestic oil prices are going up, although international prices are stable. FIIs (foreign institutional investors) are pulling out, FDI (foreign direct investment) is not coming in, foreign exchange reserves are falling. Is there cause for concern? Do you see shades of 1991?
PM: 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 euro zone crisis. And, therefore, the FIIs and foreign investors are hesitant to go to countries where they were earlier positive in investing. I believe this is phenomenon 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... And, I sincerely hope 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...
Q: Sir, there has been talk of making you as the next president. Is this something you are looking forward to?
PM: I am quite happy where I am.
Q: Can you comment on what the Army Chief is up to. Right now, he is bringing all kinds of allegations. Your reaction on it?
PM: Sometime silence is golden.
(Speaking again on charges of corruption to a request for a response 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 unke liye istemal kiye ja rahe hain. Agar maine aisi koi beimani ki baat kee hai to mera tamam public career, chahe woh finance minister... chahe Prime Minister ho... is an open book. Koi bhi agar ismen ilzaam lagata hai to uski pushti karayen. Aur agar usmen jara bhi sach nikalta hai to main (The people of India should decide if the Prime Minister is at fault that such difficult and harsh words are being used. If any instance of misconduct is found against me, as a finance minister, or as Prime Minister... my public career is an open book. If there is any charge, it should be investigated. And, if there is an iota of truth in it...), I will give up my public career and the country can give me any punishment... I think the public in India should make up its mind whether this sort of politics should rule the roost in the country.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh briefing journalists on board the special flight from Myanmar to New Delhi, after his Myanmar visit, on May 29