Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday broke his silence on opposition criticism over his frequent foreign visits and took veiled digs at his critics back home, saying he was being attacked for “tireless” work and asserted that if it was a “crime” he would continue to do it.
Mr. Modi, who came under attack over his criticism of previous governments during his last trip to Germany, France and Canada, “People are asking why is Modi travelling to so many countries...If you work less, criticism is normal. If you keep sleeping, criticism is normal. But it is my bad luck that I am being criticised for working more.”
He asserted that “If working more is a crime, I will keep doing it. My commitment is to the people.”
Addressing the Indian community in Shanghai before winding up his three-day China tour, he said “times are changing” and the world is now looking at India differently because of the performance of his government during the last one year which was a “matter of pride” for every citizen.
Mr. Modi, who recounted that it was on this day in 2014 that results of the Lok Sabha elections came, said he had then made three commitments — “I will work tirelessly”, “I am inexperienced and will learn” and that “I will not do any wrong with bad intent”. He said he had fulfilled all the three commitments.
“For the last one year, I have not taken even one day’s leave. I have worked day and night. Did I go on any vacation? Do I take rest? Am I not implementing my promise?” he said.
His reference to “vacation” may be seen as a swipe at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who is facing questions over his 56-day mysterious sabbatical.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi had last week accused Mr. Modi of playing domestic politics on foreign soil by attacking his “distinguished” predecessor Manmohan Singh during his visit abroad in April 2015 and sinking to a “new low” by referring to the UPA in “despicable terms” in Canada.
Talking about his government’s performance over the past year, the Prime Minister said he had started doing work in the first year itself, trying to “do the work of last 30 years”.
Because of this, the world “trusts me more”, he said.
“What I sowed in one year, it needs to be nurtured. Had I done this in fifth year, nobody would take seriously. But world takes us seriously because I did this it in first year itself,” he said addressing the gathering of about 5000 Indian diaspora amid chants of “Modi, Modi”.
Referring to his other pledge that he will “learn”, he said he has been trying to do it ever since he assumed office and even on foreign visits he is trying to learn the experiences and expertise for emulating in India.
With regard to his third vow that he will not do any wrong intentionally, Mr. Modi said, “Today, far away from India on first anniversary, I can say that nobody has accused us of taking wrong step because of bad intent.”
He said he needed the blessings of people so that “I make no mistake which may hurt my country”.
The former Chief Minister of Gujarat also recalled questions raised in run up to the last Lok Sabha elections with regard to his experience in foreign affairs.
“People used to ask who is Modi? What does he know about foreign policy? Accusations were correct but apprehensions were wrong,” he said, adding due to the performance of last one year, “Indians can hold their heads high”.
Talking about his three-day China visit, he said it is being watched globally and he himself understands its significance.
“I see this visit in a different way. It has laid strong foundations which will benefit coming ages,” Mr. Modi said.
He noted that it was for the first time in China’s history that its President had received any foreign leader outside Beijing, a gesture which was shown by Xi Jinping who travelled to Xi’an to welcome him. “This welcome was not for Modi or my delegation, but to 125 crore Indians.”
Pitching for closer cooperation between two Asian giants, he said, “Do not see what India got or China got. One-third of world population lives in these two countries. Did we ever recognise this power? We just ignored it, considering ourselves poor nations.
“But India and China, together, can help not only themselves but the entire world. On one side is one-third of the world population and on the other is rest of the world.”
> In China, going beyond optics
In redefining India's geopolitical relationship, Modi would have to take a call on balance of power in Asia-Pacific
>Modi, Xi get down to tackling tough issues
Boundary row, trade balance dominate talks, writes Suhasini Haidar.
Takeaways from China
- 1 For enhanced border defence cooperation, a "hotline" to work between the Military Headquarters >Read more
- 2 ISRO and China space agency to sign Space Cooperation Outline for Deep Space Exploration >Read more
- 3 Sisterhood between Karnataka & Sichuan; Aurangabad & Dunhuang, Chennai & Chongqing, Hyderabad & Qingdao >Read more
- 4 Extend electronic tourist visas to Chinese nationals. India will celebrate the "Year of China" next year >Read more
- 5 Agreement on climate change later this year, will address mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer >Read more
- 6 China will open a new Consulate General in Chennai, India will open one in Chengdu >Read more
- 7 Tackle growing trade deficit by expanding economic relations in Infrastructure, IT, Pharma, Agriculture and Manufacturing >Read more
>To China with a clear strategy
India cannot overlook excess of nationalism, belief in exceptionalism in today's China
>A long march to a new relationship
India-China relationship today is marked by low levels of mutual trust, writes Nirupama Rao.