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GDP already falling when I took over as FM: President

Pranab Mukherjee’s first day at Brussels was dominated by economic agenda.

Written by D K Singh | Brussels | Published: October 4, 2013 4:02:29 am

President Pranab Mukherjee has said that when he had taken over as finance minister in January 2009,the Indian economy was already on a slide,with the GDP going down “on almost a fortnightly basis”. After P Chidambaram had been shifted to the home ministry in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had kept additional charge of finance for a brief period before handing it over to Mukherjee.

Seeking to explain the genesis of the economic downturn in India in an interview to France-based European TV channel Euronews,Mukherjee said,“First of all,I would like to express my views on this issue. I am fully aware of it because I myself was involved when the crisis began. First financial crisis in 2008,I had to bear the additional responsibility of heading the finance ministry. Therefore,I had to face this problem.”

“Indian GDP was growing at a fast rate of around 9 per cent plus,but when I took over I found out there was,on almost a fortnightly basis,a sliding down of the GDP. In hindsight,we can say that we did not understand the depth of the crisis at that point of time. So,immediately,we had to rush and like most other countries we provided stimulus packages. Frankly speaking,we could not recover from that shock,” he said.

The interview had been given to Euronews at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on the eve of Mukherjee’s departure on a six-day visit to Belgium and Turkey on October 2.

“I am not talking of India but also the whole world because the problem is at the root. And at that root there is a commonality of the problems for the euro zone and ourselves… that our borrowing is not matching our mobilisation of resources. It required radical reforms. Many of the European countries did it,even taking the risk. I salute them,” said Mukherjee.

Incidentally,Mukherjee’s first day at Brussels was dominated by economic agenda. The two countries discussed issues related to bilateral cooperation in trade and investment. In what Indian officials described as an indication of international investors’ continuing belief in India’s growth story,princess Astrid,sister of Belgian king Philippe,will lead a 300-strong delegation comprising representatives of Belgian companies on a week-long visit to India next month.

Talking about the recent spurt in violence at the LoC with Pakistan,Mukherjee told Euronews,“In our basic foreign policy,we do not have any territorial ambition. We do not have any ambition to export our ideology to any country… When I was foreign minister,I used to say that I can change my friends if I like but I can’t change my neighbours. It is for me to decide whether I will live with my neighbour in tension or in peace. We opted for peace. But one point is to be understood. No country can compromise its territorial integrity. … terrorist activities must be curbed. And state-sponsored terrorism can never be acceptable.”

Asked about Pakistan’s rebuttal of India’s stance on state-sponsored terrorism,Mukherjee said,“No,it might not be,but non-state actors — that is the phrase they use — are not coming from heaven. Non-state actors are coming from territory under your control.”

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