Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to the Indian Parliament

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: New Delhi
Source: Thatcher Archive
Editorial comments: Telex version of text headed "Text of speech delivered ...".
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2346
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Energy, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Law & order, Race, immigration, nationality

I am greatly delighted to be speaking today to the members of India's Parliament, on this my first visit to your country since taking office as Prime Minister.

It is only three years since a British Prime Minister last addressed members of the Indian Parliament. That is a sign of the closeness of the relations between our two countries. In that short period, both our nations have changed their governments by means of parliamentary elections. That is a reminder of the democracy that our two people share. The right of our people to elect us and dismiss us is our assurance that we meet today as their true representatives.

Too few countries can make such a claim.

The lives of India and Britain are interwoven to a degree rare among nations. In small ways as well as great, we are part of each other's history and part of each other's present. British interest in India is strong and continuing.

India's achievements

We admire India's priceless contribution to world civilisation. We respect your many striking achievements: the social changes you have wrought and the economic progress you have made, we applaud the way you have maintained the unity of this vast country with its many peoples and its diverse cultures.

We rejoice that those ideals of liberty and democracy that first emerged in ancient greece have taken firm root here in Indian soil. The long migration of these ideals, through time and around the globe, is one of the great epics of history. It is potent proof of the oneness of mankind.

We know—though few can fully comprehend—how great are the problems posed by the size and variety of your population and by the cruel damage that nature can inflict.

Our world is one, and none of us stands alone. Your success in the struggle for progress matters to us just as the health of our economies matters to you. Your victories over poverty, flood and drought and disease are victories for all free men and women. Your achievements at the frontiers of science, industry and agriculture are an inspiration and example to the world.

We have watched with admiration India's striking progress in food production, raising farm yields through a great investment in irrigation and through new techniques. You have built up your reserve stocks of food. You have made yourselves less vulnerable to the treachery of weather.

Over the past three decades you have achieved an impressive rate of agricultural and industrial growth: your success in food production tells its own story, your engineering and chemical industries thrive, you are developing your own energy resources, you have launched your own space satellite. [end p1]

Economic co-operation

Britain has been privileged to play an important part in many of these things. Indo-British trade last year amounted to rs.1,500 crores—over three-quarters of a billion pounds. That is one-third of your total trade with the European community, which is, in turn, by far your most important market and supplier. Britain's aid to India was the soundest of investments in the future.

The present situation provides a solid base on which to build.

Of course, both our countries face major economic problems and awkward choices. We in Britain have had to take hard decisions in the last two years. But the decisions are being made. The foundations for a more prosperous and assured future are being put down.

In part, the problems which you face in India are the same as ours—problems of priorities, of co-ordination, of investment and industrial renewal. Others are quite different —reflecting the sheer size and diversity of your country, the extremes of your climate.

But your government is not shrinking from the problems. On the contrary, your sixth plan faces them boldly.

And India has notable sources of strength. There may be considerable reserves of oil off your shores. Soon you may be a grain exporter, an extraordinary achievement given the difficulties your have faced. Britain hopes to stand alongside you as you advance to new successes.

I hope that in the near future we can extend and strengthen the collaboration we already have with you in such vital sectors as steel power, coal and fertilizers. I am glad that we have just been able to give £44 million, or rs. 81 crores, to the Thal fertilizer project.

We also look forward to new programmes of co-operation in the fields of science and technology, and in space. In the longer term I can foresee co-operation in telecommunications, oil exploration and the modernisation of your railways.

Our talks today and the documents we have signed will, I am confident, give added impetus to our co-operation. The future is rich with promise.

Nationality and immigration

You will, I know, expect that in speaking to you today about our bilateral relations I will say something about the British government's legislation on nationality questions and immigration. The government, like its predecesors, is committed to creating a racially just and harmonious society. We are committed to ensuring that there are equal opportunities for all our people, regardless of their race, background, or national origin. Whatever the difficulties—and the last few days (just before my visit) have shown that they are very real—we shall stick to that commitment. [end p2]

It is reflected in our new law on nationality. On this, first let me make clear that, like every other country, Britain must reserve to herself the right to decide on the rules governing the right to citizenship. Your, I know, would expect no less for yourself. At present Britain is perhaps the only country in the world without a clear definition of its own citizenship. The new law aims to remedy this by according a criterion for British citizenship to those who belong to the country and have close and continuing associations with, Britain. The conditions for obtaining British citizenship will be less stringent than in many other countries.

Let it be clearly understood that there is nothing in the proposed law which discriminates against any racial or national group. It will not affect adversely the position under immigration law of anyone who is settled in the United Kingdom. Those Indian citizens settled in Britain who have not yet exercised their entitlement to register as British citizens (most of them have in fact already become British citizens) and will remain so will still have several years to exercise that entitlement if, they wish. Even after this transition period they will still be able to acquire British citizenship by naturalisation. Alternatively, they will be entirely free to retain their Indian citizenship, with their right to live in Britain unchanged. The existing rights of U.K. Passport holders to enter the United Kingdom will also not be adversely affected.

Control of immigration into Britain is essential if we are to maintain good race relations. Our immigration officials are instructed to carry out their duties, in accordance with the law, without regard to race, colour or religion. But we live in the age of the jumbo jet. Millions of people visit Britain each year, including last year 190,000 Indians. Inevitably when such large numbers are involved a few people try to enter illegally, and inevitably a few are therefore turned back. But the percentage of refusals is tiny—in the case of Indians, six in each thousand. We are glad that so many people wish to visit Britain, and I think the figures amply demonstrate that all genuine visitors are welcome. We knew there were some misunderstandings (over immigration and the nationality bill) and things were said that were a little wounding to us. We want to create a harmonious society, those who take up British citizenship will continue to be as British as I am.

International situation

Let me turn now to the international situation, where both our countries have a vital role to play. I know, not least from my conversations with you, Indira GandhiPrime Minister, that India's attachment to peace is the foundation of your policy. Your leading role in the non-aligned movement, whose latest conference was so successfully held here in delhi, is acknowledged by all.

We in Britain share your devotion to peace. We respect the principle of non-alignment. As I said in a recent speech in New York.

“we in the West do not demand alignment or displays of fidelity. Our ambition is that the countries of the third world should be at liberty to solve their own problems in their own way.” it follows that we see a fundamental difference between those who, like India, are truly committed to the principles of non-alignment and those who profess loyalty to it even as they seek to distort its meaning.

This matters to us in Britain because we remain today, as in the past, a nation with noble interests and concerns. Our relative power may be less than in the past, but our outlook is still worldwide. Our membership of the European community has not changed this.

After all we and the other nine members are the world's [end p3] largest trading entity. Together we account for about one-fifth of world trade. The Europeans are the main trading partner of the developing world: about 40 per cent. Of ec trade is with developing countries. Of all the official aid from the industrialised democracies to the developing world, Europe gives about half. The amount is ten times greater than the amount given by the Soviet Union and its comecon partners. But I do not want to burden this speech with statistic.

With that degree of international involvement, of commerce with the rest of the world, it is inevitable that we in Britain and we in Europe should look outward. These things govern our international policies.

We want to find ways to allow the international trading system to work more effectively. We are well aware of the benefits which three decades of expansion of international trade and investment have brought to so many countries, including ourselves. We want to see that expansion resumed. We know of the pressures for protectionism. We shall resist them to the best of our ability, for trade to be free must also be fair.

We are anxious to see greater political stability in the world as a whole. That is why we have been active in the search for a settlement to the Arab-Israel dispute. A solution is needed which will offer a secure and independent future to Israel while accepting the legitimate rights of the palestinians. The key to progress lies in the acceptance by each side of the rights of the other. The efforts of the European community are designed to promote this.

A similar desire to see stability replace uncertainty has informed Britain's activities, alongside those of our four Western partners, in regard to Namibia. We have been trying follow the success achieved in Zimbabwe to make possible another step forward in southern africa. Alas, it proved impossible in Geneva. But we have not given up.

The final, and most important, consequence of Britain's and of Europe's involvement with the world community is that we are, like India, committed to the cause of peace—to peace, above all, between East and West.

For many years we and our other allies have sought ways of lowering tension in East-West relations. We know and have experienced the horrors of war, and never want to see them again. But weakness does not bring peace. We therefore seek military balance at the loWest level that we can negotiate and monitor. We seek mutual understanding. We have exercised restraint and have encouraged others to do so.

Afghanistan

But that restraint must never be mistaken for a weakening of our resolve to protect our liberty and interests and to support our friends. The invasion of Afghanistan shocked many people into realising that moderation had not been met with moderation. We have no wish to return to the so-called “cold war” of the early 1950s. It is not we who have imperial ambitions. We are not imposing our will on other countries by force of arms. We respect the sovereignty of others. We welcome the strong reassertion of this principle by the non-aligned movement in the wake of the invasion of Afghanistan.

We all know the concerns and uncertainties which that invasion has created in the region and indeed throughout the whole world. A settlement in Afghanistan that will leave the country free from foreign troops is needed to restore confidence. Then Afghanistan can return to its traditional non-alignment of that is what her people want. It is for them to choose their government and their destiny. [end p4]

We have put forward proposals for a political solution. I repeat here to you that the government I lead is ready to join with others, including Afghanistan's neighbours and permanent members of the Security Council, in discussing how those objectives can be achieved.

The continuing crisis in Afghanistan, like the war between Iran and Iraq, has made many people deeply anxious for the security of oil supplies from the gulf. Like India, Western Europe is highly dependent on that source of oil. Our relations go far beyond oil and we maintain the closest consultation with the states in the area. The best way we can allay anxiety is by being ready to respond to any request the Gulf states may make for help, and by being ready to enhance their defences in any way they wish.

Conclusion

Ultimately each nation must be responsible for its own defence, defence of its borders and defence of its people. But few can do it alone. Collaboration in defence matters will, I hope, be only one aspect of the broader co-operation between Britain and India. For it is vitally important that our two countries, with their traditions of peace, freedom and democracy, should regularly take counsel together. India and Britain are leading powers in the modern world. In some cases we belong to the same international grouping, as in the Commonwealth: sometimes to different—you non-aligned, we aligned. That gives us at once a special opportunity and a special responsibility.

We understand, better perhaps than most, that we live in a world in which nations are becoming ever more dependent on one another. We know that those nations are going to have to work together or perish. Our two countries are destined to show others how this can be done. Although the needs of the developing world are great, its potential is greater still.

We know that men and women can and do achieve extraordinary things. When nations work together they can reach heights to which alone they could not aspire. Britain and India know each other, trust each other, can work with each other. Let us do so with fresh imagination and renewed vigour. Our achievements will be greater than many would now foresee.