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New Delhi: Indian companies have “to come forward to take the benefits of the process we have set in motion," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an interview to the Hindustan Times on Wednesday.

He was responding to the criticism, most recently voiced by Housing Development Finance Corp. Ltd (HDFC) chairman Deepak Parekh, that his government hadn’t done much to change things on the ground.

In his first interview to Indian media after becoming Prime Minister in May last year, Modi added that his government can’t single out businessmen for special treatment.

“Our job is to run a policy-driven government. The absence of red tape does not mean it shouldn’t be there for Mukesh Ambani, but be there for a common man; that won’t do".

He also pointed out the obvious irony in the fact that the criticism comes even as the rival Congress believes his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is a little too business-friendly.

“I would request the media to counterpose two things together—the allegations our Congress friends level against us and the complaints that businessmen have; the Congress says we are a government of industrialists and industrialists say we do nothing for them!"

Many companies in the private sector are still grappling with legacy issues, Modi said, referring to problems that have their genesis in the years (2004-14) the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance ruled the country.

He listed out several of these—so-called tax terrorism, duty inversion and selective exemptions. “That is why we tried to address many such issues during the budget of 2015-16 and to correct them across the board. We know that such steps are important for creating jobs and opportunities for millions of Indians. I repeat my assurance to all: if you take one step; we will walk two steps for you," Modi said.

The NDA’s rule has also been marred by indiscreet and inflammatory comments by some of his party colleagues and members of the organizations affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the BJP.

Modi indicated that he is unhappy with such statements but added that he couldn’t be expected to clarify his government’s stance or make statements every time something like this happens.

In his interview, a day before he embarks on a visit to France, Germany and Canada, Modi said he is hopeful of positive outcomes from the trip.

“These three countries have great relevance to our development process and growth; Canada is rich in hydrocarbons and other natural resources; Germany has a manufacturing and skill base; and France is our dependable strategic partner," he said, adding that France was one of the first countries to come out in support of India after the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998.

He said he likes to visit multiple countries on his foreign tours to get more done. “I’m from Ahmedabad where we have a saying, ‘single-fare, double journey’," he quipped.

Modi said he would like to see the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) flourish. India remains open to bilateral dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues in an environment free of terrorism and violence, he said. “Peace cannot co-exist with terrorism, can it?" he asked.

The Prime Minister characterized the border problems with China as complicated and old and said they need to be addressed with care.

Modi said he was looking forward to visiting China soon and that Chinese President Xi Jinping shared his optimism on the relationship between the two countries.

“The present priorities of both nations are the economic welfare of their people; we have taken a conscious decision not to allow confrontation to escalate into conflict," he said.

On Indo-US relations, Modi said his “friendship with President (Barack) Obama is based on mutual respect and mutual interest" and that their discussions make it “evident that India figures significantly in American geo-political, economic and strategic thinking".

Explaining his recent exhortations to well-off Indians to give up their cooking gas subsidies, the Prime Minister said it was the responsibility of the government to take care of the poor and that the issue of subsidies was not just an economic but also a humanitarian issue. “The culture of our country is that of giving; not of cornering something that belongs to others."

Asked what he thought of analysts interpreting the BJP’s Delhi state election debacle as the end of the ‘Modi wave’, Modi said: “It is amusing to hear those who did not talk about a ‘Modi wave’ during the 2014 general elections now intensely discussing it."

He added: “You have to respect the verdict of the people who have voted during all elections held after the Lok Sabha elections," mentioning the state elections in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir and local body elections in Assam, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan—all polls in which the BJP fared well. Hindustan Times

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