Like Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh before him, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided his first interview after assuming office would go to an international news organisation, rather than an Indian one. That it was Mumbai-born Fareed Zakaria interviewing him was little solace for those watching, because CNN and its local channel, CNN-IBN, ran the much-hyped interview entirely in English with a voiceover dubbing out Modi’s Hindi replies.

This prompted plenty of unhappy responses. With Modi having decided to make Hindi his language of choice across the globe, even though he could choose to speak English, viewers in India appeared to want to hear the original answers. Instead, CNN-IBN, a joint venture with Network18 that has had a complicated history of covering Modi, had to run the feed directly from the international channel, forcing it to ad-lib over the commercial breaks on its global partner.

According to former Hindu editor Siddharth Varadarajan, this wasn’t entirely CNN’s choice.


The Ministry of External Affairs would later release the entire transcript in Hindi.

So what did Zakaria, who has previously said that he believed Modi could not be the face of India, ask the prime minister? In order, the CNN global editor asked about China, the United States, Al Qaeda and violence against women. He ended the interview by requesting Modi to tell the world how he relaxes.

The answers were mostly as expected, with Modi talking about regaining the lost glory of India rather than trying to imitate China. He said that India's democracy runs in its DNA and that he, the son of a poor man, could become the country’s leader only in a democracy. Modi insisted that India and the United States, which had for years imposed a visa ban on him, had a relationship that went beyond just New Delhi and Washington. And, in remarks that were released to the press earlier, Modi said that Indian Muslims would “live for India, die for India” and never dance to al-Qaeda’s tune.

There were a couple of interesting answers though.

On Russia and Crimea

For one, when asked about Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Modi managed to pull off a classic dodge. Rather than talk about the invasion, Modi instead chose to condemn the deaths of the passengers who were shot down in the Malaysian Airlines plane and in the fighting at the time.

He then went on to quote the Bible, claiming that it was an Indian proverb, saying “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” He said that there are many people who preach, but rarely have any of them been free of committing sins in the past. “In India our thought-out approach is that everyone should sit together and come to a resolution on such issues,” Modi said.

On political pundits

Modi has been annoyed about the media in the past, most famously when he complained soon after coming to power that he wasn’t being given a honeymoon period. Here too, when asked about the way women are treated in India, he said, “One important thing is that political pundits should not be poking their nose in these things. The greater loss comes from political pundits trying to talk about issues like this.”

On how he is not the 'not working type'

Modi is apparently not embarrassed at all about the string of stories that claim he is a workaholic who never stops. When asked how he relaxes, Modi insisted that he is not the “not-working type”. “I get happiness from my work, I get relaxation from my work,” the PM said. “At all times I am thinking about starting a new scheme or a different way to do some kind of work.”