WASHINGTON (TIP): Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dispelled the notion that his government is anti-minority, telling Time magazine in an interview that “so far as the government is concerned, there is only one holy book, which is the Constitution of India.”
In an expansive conversation with the magazine’s editors on the occasion of his government’s first anniversary later this month, the Prime Minister, addressing an international audience, said
“Wherever a (negative) view might have been expressed (about) a minority religion, we have immediately negated that….The unity and the integrity of the country are the topmost priorities. All religions and all communities have the same rights, and it is my responsibility to ensure their complete and total protection.”
“My government will not tolerate or accept any discrimination based on caste, creed and religion,” he added, in the face of a spate of divisive and communal pronouncements by some of his colleagues.
The Prime Minister also addressed the issue of terrorism at some length, saying “countries that believe in human values” should come together and fight terrorism, and it is important for the countries to go beyond the groups, beyond the individual names, beyond the geographical location they come from, beyond even looking at the victims of the terrorism, and fight terrorism as a collective.
Modi disclosed that when he met President Obama both in September last year and in January this year, he did request him to lead the charge in delinking terrorism from religion.
“We should not look at terrorism from the nameplates – which group they belong to, what are their names, what is their geographical location, who are the victims of terrorism … I think we should not see them in individual pieces. We should rather have a comprehensive look at the ideology of terrorism, see it as something that is a fight for human values, as terrorists are fighting against humanity,” he said.
Ahead of his visit to China next week, India’s Prime Minister also addressed New Delhi’s complex ties with Beijing in an interview where Pakistan was a non-issue. He said both India and China are showing great maturity and commitment to economic cooperation.
“There is by and large peace and tranquillity on the India-China border. It is not a volatile border. Not a single bullet has been fired for over a quarter of a century now. This essentially goes to prove that both countries have learnt from history,” he pointed out.
Asked whether he would like to have the kind of authoritarian power that China’s leader has, Modi maintained that “India is a democracy; it is in our DNA,” and he did not think a dictatorship was needed to run India.
“If you were to ask me to choose between democratic values and wealth, power, prosperity and fame, I will very easily and without any doubt choose democratic values,” he said. Modi also described India and US as “natural allies,” an expression first used by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee which had since been jettisoned.
“We are natural allies … (It’s not) what India can do for the US, what the US can do for India … The way we should look at it is what India and the US can together do for the world … strengthening democratic values all over,” he said.
Modi dodges the ‘devil horn’ cover
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dodged the notorious ‘devil horn’ cover on Time magazine. The so-called ‘devil horn’ cover occurs when the M in the TIME title comes over the subject’s head, giving him or her the appearance of having pointed horns.
Time says has had 34 ‘devil horn’ covers in its history, most recently that of Hillary Clinton in silhouette. Others who have featured under devil’s horn include Margaret Thatcher, Pope Francis, Jesus Christ and Darth Vader. Obama, Bush, and Clinton have also sprouted devil’s horn on Time covers. “Any resemblance to cats, bats or devil horns is entirely coincidental,” the magazine said in a recent explanatory note.
Time has a hoary cover tradition. This is the first time Narendra Modi has been on the cover of both Time’s US and International editions. He has been on the cover of TIME Asia twice before this week. Jawaharlal Nehru appeared on six Time covers, and Mahatma Gandhi on three. There have been 51 Time magazine covers featuring a Bush and 54 featuring a Clinton.
Portrait photographer Peter Hapak who has shot Modi’s cover photo, said he spent a full hour with Modi to get the ideal shot. “I had a full hour with him, which is very unusual because most of the time I only have 10 minutes for a portrait session,” Hapak explained. “For portraiture it’s very important to make your subject forget that you’re here, that somebody’s watching him. It was enough time for him to get comfortable.”