Mrs. Indira Gandhi
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
As the House will be aware, Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated in Delhi today. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House will be equally appalled at that tragic news. I am sure, too, that the whole House will wish to join in expressing to Mrs. Gandhi's family, and to the Government and people of India, our profound grief and sympathy.
This despicable act has robbed India of a great and courageous leader. Daughter of Pandit Nehru, one of the pioneers of India's independence, she led her country for a total of 16 years as Prime Minister, a period which saw India's emergence as an industrial power as well as a major influence in world affairs. Her death has also robbed the Commonwealth of a statesman of outstanding stature and experience.
Mrs. Gandhi chaired the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, in November last year, with dignity, authority and charm. We shall all feel the loss of her wise counsel and her deep humanity, the more so because we knew her not only as a statesman but as a friend of this country.
I understand, although it is not yet confirmed officially, that Mrs. Gandhi's son, Rajiv Gandhi, whom we know well and for whom we have both affection and respect, has been sworn in as the new Indian Prime Minister. We wish him well at this difficult hour in his country's history.
Only a few days ago, Mrs. Gandhi sent me a message in which she said:
“All terrorism and violence are condemnable and contemptible” .
The murder of a democratic leader is an attack on democracy itself. We utterly condemn this savage and treacherous crime. Let there be no doubt that acts of terrorism will only strengthen the resolve of free peoples that those who resort to violence shall not prevail.