Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1985 Oct 12 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Press Trust of India

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Interview
Venue: Chequers
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India
Editorial comments: The interview was due to begin at 1600.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 5788
Themes: Commonwealth (general), Commonwealth (South Africa), Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Law & order, Race, immigration, nationality, Terrorism

Mr. M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

As you know, there have been some strains in relations between India and Britain, mostly because of the activities of Sikh extremists in this country. Do you think that phase is over?

Prime Minister

Well, I hope so. We feel very strongly that the Sikh extremists in this country are abusing the hospitality afforded to them by this country. One must be very very careful not to judge the enormous overwhelming majority of law-abiding Sikhs by a few extremists who are totally unrepresentative, and I think everyone understands that.

We were as deeply distressed as anyone else by the things that were said at that time; so was the Asian community in this country; and we condemned some of the things that were said by a tiny minority but, alas, they were reported very strongly.

I hope that phase is over. India herself has occasion to be worried by the activity of extremists in India and knows exactly the kind of thing that we have to put up with here sometimes, and the moment we get evidence, we prosecute or we take action under one of the several Acts that is available. [end p1] I have a whole list of things that we have done, but I am sure you will know about many of them.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Yes, but as you know, Rajiv GandhiMr. Gandhi has still been saying that the British Government could do a bit more.

Prime Minister

We constantly say: “Please! If you have any more evidence please give it to us! We are only too anxious and willing to take action!” But your legal system and ours is founded on a similar basis. We know that you convict on evidence and therefore, if there is any more evidence we are very anxious to have every bit of evidence that there is.

Can I just tell you exactly what has been done, because there really is an enormous amount.

In general, Members of Parliament with Sikh constituents do encourage the moderates to speak out. We have taken a very firm line with community leaders. Indeed, we often invoke the help of community leaders against some of these extremists.

In November 1984, we banned a Sikh march because of the threat of disorder. We have excluded a Canadian extremist in August 1984, and a second one in December 1984. We refused entry to Rapinda Singh Anki. We have given warnings to other Sikh extremists entering the United Kingdom when evidence was insufficient to refuse entry; and when evidence is available, we have prosecuted. Of course, in January 1985, six Kashmiris [end p2] were imprisoned, two for life and one for 20 years, for the kidnapping and murder of the Indian Assistant High Commissioner Mr. Mahtra in February 1984; and we are still seeking the extradition of three suspects from Pakistan, and another person has been detained and charged. Obviously, one does not try by radio, so one cannot say anything about names.

So whenever there is sufficient action to form the basis of a charge or prosecution, we do. What we cannot, is on suspicion without evidence. If any of you have got evidence, please let us have it!

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

You mentioned that all the Sikh extremists abused the hospitality extended by this country. So what does one do if you know somebody has abused the hospitality?

Prime Minister

You get evidence, because you need evidence to prosecute under the law. I am sure that India understands this because I would think that India has sometimes herself had difficulty in getting precise evidence.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Yes, but they are here only as guests.

Prime Minister

No, they are citizens. If they are not citizens, they have [end p3] been accepted as permanently residing in this country, and that is why there can be no question of deportation or anything like that. Where do you deport a person who is permanently residing in this country to?

Now, if we were to change the law retrospectively, it would not only affect them, but it would affect tens of thousands of other people who are living good law-abiding lives here. You cannot make changes in the law for one or two people that in fact would make it acutely difficult for the many many Asian citizens who have made their permanent home in this country. Let me stress, the overwhelming majority of Asian people who have made their permanent home in this country are very good law-abiding citizens, live their own lives looking after their own families, looking after their own old people, hard-working, very hard-working and we have to consider them first.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

We are not talking about the law-abiding citizen. We are talking of people who, as you yourself said, they are the ones who use the hospitality. Take a private example: if somebody is a guest in my house and he abuses my hospitality, surely I would ask him to go.

Prime Minister

I give the thing generally, because we have been deeply offended about some of the things that were said, as you know, after Mrs. Gandhi 's death, but what we have to do in a democratic [end p4] country—of which India is a supreme example—is to say: “Have we got evidence to charge this person under this law?” and that, as you know, is one of the problems. I am sure it is a problem that must affect India too. You do not try a person on generalities. You do not try them on suspicion. What you have to do is say: “Have we got evidence to charge this person under this law?” and that, as you know, is one of the problems. I am sure it is a problem that must affect India too. You do not try a person on generalities. You do not try them on suspicion. What you have to do is say: “Will what they have done, will what we have evidence about, be sufficient to prosecute them?” What I have indicated is that when we have sufficient evidence to prosecute people, not only are they prosecuted, but they are convicted.

We have powers to keep people out of this country. We have used them. It is easier sometimes to keep them out than it is to have them here and of course, some of those, under the 1971 Act, arsquouired permanent residence here and then, of course, they are citizens of this country and entitled to the same rights as any other citizen, and I would also say should exercise the same responsibilities.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

But I believe you deported a number of Libyans when there were these terror attacks on the streets of London.

Prime Minister

I can deport Libyans who are Libyan citizens. What I cannot do is deport people who have made Britain their permanent home under the Immigration Acts. They have been accepted for permanent residence here. [end p5]

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Some of them are still Indian citizens I think.

Prime Minister

Well, there are one or two of whom you say they are, but you see, if they are also now accepted for permanent residence here, we cannot deport them. We can only try them and for trying them, we have to have the evidence. But if you have evidence that there are British citizens when in fact they have been accepted for permanent residence here and you think that they do not qualify, then please let us know. But we do not necessarily take extra people as qualifying for permanent residence here, as you know, and we have no wish to increase the number. On the contrary. So we are very very careful about that. But if all the conditions are satisfied and they apply to be recognised and registered, having been here for many years, as having permanent residence, being accepted for permanent residence here, and we do not give them that permanent residence, then they can take the Government to court to say that we are not applying our own residence laws correctly.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

So if there are those who still have Indian nationality?

Prime Minister

The question is whether they have been accepted for permanent residence here; and you cannot deport a citizen who is accepted for permanent residence here. You can extradite [end p6] someone, provided the application is made properly.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Prime Minister, I know you understand the Indian concern.

Prime Minister

Look! I understand the Indian concern. Please, you understand my concern! I do not want anyone who is plotting against the stability of India or against people in India. I do not want them here, but if they have arsquouired permanent residence here, then they are accepted here as having the same rights and the same responsibilities as any other person.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

I am sure this problem will come up for discussion with Mr. Gandhi, so what would you be telling him about this?

Prime Minister

Just, I think, exactly what I have told you.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Because he still says that he thinks much more could be done and you think there is no room for it.

Prime Minister

He knows our laws and if he has any more evidence against particular named people, we would be the first to wish to have it. [end p7] You see, you do not convict a person generally. A person, as you know, has to be brought before courts, evidence has to be laid, evidence has to be given by witnesses who are prepared to stand up in court and give that evidence; and then the judge listens and he convicts or arsquouits according to the evidence. So it is evidence one needs. But so far, we have looked at all of the evidence and where it is sufficient to prosecute, we have prosecuted.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Will you be assuring him that Britain will not be allowed to be used as a base to destabilise India?

Prime Minister

It is my most earnest wish that Britain should not be allowed to be used as a base to further any violence anywhere and, of course, in particular a country with whom we have such a close association as India and for whom we have such a great admiration as we have for India.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Do you think the stability and unity of India is an important factor in that part of the world?

Prime Minister

It is a very important factor to the world as a whole. It is very important to India, it is very important in that part of the [end p8] world. India is our biggest democracy. What happens to her is of great interest to everyone. It is of particular interest to us, because most of us have a great love of the country. We had a fantastic admiration for Mrs. Gandhi and we have a tremendous admiration for Rajiv Gandhithe present Prime Minister. We think he is doing a wonderful job. He is doing a wonderful job for India and he is doing a wonderful job for the larger world.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

How important is his visit? I mean, what is the importance you attach to it?

Prime Minister

We are very very pleased indeed that he is coming. This is his first visit to us as Prime Minister, and we are very deeply pleased and we welcome back a person whom we have known. We welcome him back as Head of Government in India. We welcome him back in honour, in admiration and in friendship.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

And what are your expectations from the visit, from the talks you will have with him while he is here?

Prime Minister

Just greater understanding of present problems. If there are any problems, what can we do to overcome them? And greater understanding of world problems. This is what we get when we have [end p9] regular talks. Of course, we are going to the Commonwealth Conference. I am delighted that there appears to be a closer relationship between India and the United States. They are two of the world's most important democracies and I am just very very delighted at that and Mr. Gandhi is already a world statesman.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

You have been taking a personal interest in some of the major contracts which the British firms have been bidding for in India and I think one of the contracts, or a discussion, has been for the sale of Westland helicopters. At one stage, I think there was a possibility that Britain might withhold the aid which was to cover that deal. What is the position now?

Prime Minister

Well, of course, £45 million of aid was earmarked for this year for those helicopters and I understand that the helicopters are technically up to specification and we are halfway through the year, and the company started to make them after they were told that they were technically all right, because the schedule for delivery was a very tight one and if they had not started to make them, they would have defaulted on delivery. So that is why the money was earmarked for this year. Now, it is already halfway through October, so it just would not be possible to switch the whole of that amount of aid this year to something else. We obviously hope the order will go through, but we have nothing firm yet. [end p10]

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

If the order comes through now, let us say in the next one month, would it be possible to cover …   .

Prime Minister

I would hope so, because it was earmarked for that purpose and you know, for some time it was thought that some of Britain's things are behind delivery time, and they were so anxious to be on delivery time that they took a chance and went ahead with making some of these things, because the order has not been confirmed. I think they have stopped at the moment, but let us give them full marks for this. The negotiations of the contract had got to the stage when delivery dates had been specified. They were very very tight delivery dates, that would have required all our productive capacity to fulfill. So they said: “So that we shall never be accused of defaulting or being late, we will go ahead and make them!” Then it was just very very unlucky that the contract ran into difficulties and I very much hope the matter will be resolved. I do not like having problems like this outstanding between a country which is basically as friendly and for whom we have as much admiration as India. I do not like something which is commercial making difficulties for the relationship. I mean, whatever happens, Britain and India will be close friends, but I very much hope that this thing can soon be sorted out.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Why do you think the problems arose? Do you think it was anything political? That is what the speculation was in Britain. [end p11]

Prime Minister

No, I do not think it was political. I think perhaps, obviously when you get a new government, they have to look at everything and that takes a time, and we understand that.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

If the contract does not come through, what happens to the money earmarked for that? Would India be deprived of that amount?

Prime Minister

There could be no way, you see, in which one could spend £45 million in the rest of this year, as you know, because it has to be spent on projects, on things, and they would have to be ordered, the contract, again, would have to be negotiated and signed, and I just do not see that the whole of it could be switched. Some of it might be able to, but you see, this contract has been under negotiation for over a year and it is still not signed. You imagine trying to start to negotiate for something else! So this year, it would seem as if that whole amount could not be switched. I mean, the amount earmarked for next year could, of course … arrangements could of course be made for some of that because there is time.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Prime Minister, I think Mr. Gandhi is going to talk to you about the situation in the South Asian region and one of his major concerns there has been the nuclear programme of Pakistan which he believes is aimed at making a weapon directed against India and I [end p12] believe you also have conveyed your …   . to President Zia. What has been his response to you?

Prime Minister

President Zia, as I am sure you know, has assured you that any nuclear development there is for peaceful purposes and may I make it very clear: we are members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement; as you know, we ourselves are a nuclear power. There is a review conference this year and we do not wish nuclear weapons to extend to other States. We think it will be very bad for the world as a whole if that happened, and could make the world a more dangerous place.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Has President Zia given you the same reassurance?

Prime Minister

As you know, President Zia has always given assurances that the development in Pakistan is for peaceful purposes and not for the purpose of weapons. Sometimes, I think it would help, you know, if there were full inspection under the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

One reads so often in the Western press about attempts by Pakistan to procure the gadgets and other things which would help it make a bomb. Has anything been done by the rest, because [end p13] you are a member of the Club, to tighten controls on such things?

Prime Minister

We are very careful to whom we supply any nuclear material—very very careful indeed, extremely careful. I mean, this is the only way in which, during the existence of that non-proliferation agreement, in which the number of States who possess a nuclear weapon has been kept down, and I think it has been of great service to the world.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Is any more tightening of the controls planned?

Prime Minister

No. That is the year in which that particular treaty is being reviewed. I am not aware of any further tightening. I think we just wish more States would sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement. There are not enough who have signed it. I think over 100 have signed it; I have not got the precise figure, but there are some very distinguished States who have not, and naturally, we do not wish any more States to get a nuclear weapon, and I think it would be very very damaging for the world as a whole.

There are a large number of States who have not in fact signed it and we would like more States to sign it and we have appealed at the review conference to all States advanced in nuclear technology to adhere to the treaty. But you see, the [end p14] technology is quite widely known. Much of it is published, and the race is to try to prevent it developing in more countries because that, I think, could be very dangerous, and therefore, the only answer is to bring oneself under the International Atomic Energy Agency, so that if you are using nuclear materials for peaceful development or for nuclear power stations, there are a whole range of inspections which the Agency can perform, which make it very clear the amount that is being developed and they keep track of the supply to see what it is being used for, and then, when you have that inspection and that monitoring, it is very clear whether or not it can be used for nuclear weapons, because as you know, in developing atomic energy power stations you do produce some plutonium and really you put it under the International Atomic Energy Agency to make certain that that plutonium is fully accounted for, so see that it could not be used for nuclear weapons. But you have to depend upon the States who are in fact developing nuclear energy to put themselves under that international agreement, and as you know, there are many States who have not.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Countries like India feel highly discriminated against for them to be subjected to such a safeguard.

Prime Minister

I have heard statesmen in India put that viewpoint. I think that one would answer that it is in the interests of everyone that more states do not turn to making nuclear weapons, and one [end p15] could only use that argument and say: “Well if everyone signed it, I think the world would be a better place!”

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Coming to the Commonwealth Summit, where both you and Mr. Gandhi will be there, and as you know, one of the major issues there is going to be the South African situation. Mr. Gandhi has said that Britain is the odd one out there on the issue of sanctions. How do you see the situation developing at the Summit?

Prime Minister

I do not think we are the odd man out. I think you will find that we have already done a great deal more than some of those countries realise. We have upheld the United Nations mandatory sanctions on not supplying arms and armaments equipment which could be used for internal repression, to South Africa. We have been upholding that for years, so armaments have not been supplied.

We do not in fact make loans to the government of South Africa. We did not recently and that too was announced. We do not supply computer equipment to the security forces of South Africa. We do not supply nuclear material to South Africa. Oil is not sold direct from the North Sea to South Africa, and recently we joined with Europe with these things—of course, North Sea oil affects us, it does not affect anyone else in Europe—and we also withdrew our military attachés. So we in Europe—the ten of us—went as far as we felt was advisable, as far as we could. We came to that agreement and we stood absolutely together. That is quite a lot! [end p16]

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Why do you oppose most of all sanctions?

Prime Minister

I oppose sanctions for the reason many many other people—including many in South Africa—oppose them. I do not believe in adding to the problems that we have already, problems that will stop the development of the economy and which would have a quite devastating effect on the capacity of the black people there to work and a devastating effect on their standard of living. I think many of them take this view, because I notice when it was suggested that there would be a strike in the gold mines, I think something like 90,000 workers decided not to.

You see, the fact is the economy in South Africa is strong and industry has been in the forefront of breaking down apartheid, absolutely in the forefront. And, of course, the actions of the market now are breaking it down. That is having far more effect than anything else. You will be aware that of all countries in Africa, all, the standard of living for blacks as well as for whites and Indians, is much higher than in most other countries. Now, I do not like apartheid. I do not believe you can differentiate between people from the colour of their skins. You may be able to differentiate on whether they are literate or not. You may be able to differentiate on their income. You may be able to differentiate on their property. You may be able to differentiate on the qualifications, but you cannot differentiate on the colour of their skin and so we have to say: the next step—and President Botha has already made astonishing advances in the last three or four [end p17] months—is to get talks going between the President and Government of South Africa and representatives of the black community on how best to involve the black community in the government of South Africa. That is a much much more constructive approach than the disruptive one. Again, can I say that I think the overwhelming majority of black states in Africa, which of course is the overwhelming majority of states, trade with South Africa and will continue to.

I believe ours is much the most constructive approach to actually bring about the end of apartheid and keep the economic growth going, which matters. It matters to all of the people in South Africa.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Do you think this line of argument will be accepted by the other Commonwealth leaders?

Prime Minister

Well, I think I shall be able to trot out the things that we have done. I think you will find that they will stand up very well indeed to what many other governments have done and I think the view which I have put to you is a constructive one, one which is likely both to help to bring about an end to apartheid and to keep the growing economy; because what do most people want? What do most people want in India as well as the liberties they have? They want a higher standard of living. You do not really [end p18] want to say to people: “Well, you can only have liberty if you are going to have a much much lower standard of living!” People want liberty, democracy; they want to be able to take part, and they want a higher standard of living; and it really does not seem to make much sense to me to do things which would be quite devastating to the very industries upon which those people are going to rely for their standard of living in the years to come. And as I say, industry has been in the forefront of breaking down apartheid, so let us encourage those who are trying to break it down.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Do you anticipate a showdown on this issue at the Summit?

Prime Minister

Showdown! I anticipate an interesting discussion!

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

The last few weeks have seen a lot of violence on the streets in Britain in which, apart from people here, people of Indian origin have also suffered. I think two of them died.

Prime Minister

Two of them died when they in fact were defending the Queen's property. It was in the Post Office and the riots then appeared to be against the shops of Asian people, hardworking loyal people in Britain, upstanding honourable citizens, and we were deeply disturbed [end p19]

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

I heard Mr. Gandhi say in an interview last night on the television that the people of Indian origin, about whom there was a lot of concern in India because they have got a lot of relations there, there is a feeling that the Government is not able to protect them and the British Government should ensure that they are protected. What do you think of that?

Prime Minister

Well, the police went into Handsworth, as you know, and eventually got the riots under control. They went into Tottenham and eventually got the riots under control. But I think India too knows that however good your forces of law and order, there are, I am afraid, times when people with criminal intent, criminals, set out to exercise their terrible violence and it does take a time to get it under control. India knows violence too. Mr. Gandhi and I are every bit as concerned to protect every citizen in our countries and we do put everything we can into giving the police the right equipment. Money had been poured into Handsworth. We had done community policing, we had done all the right things, but this was naked crime and, of course, when that happens yes, it did take a time, when these things suddenly happen, for the police to gather enough forces and then to go in. You have got then—let me make this very clear—to rely on people who have seen what happened and who did these things, to rely on them in spite of all the problems, to come forward to the police with evidence, because you can only make the arrests on evidence, and that is what we are doing. [end p20]

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

You very often praise the Indian community in this country for the contribution they make …

Prime Minister

They are very hardworking, they are proud of their families, they look after their families, they are responsible for their families, they look after their parents, they live as families, they are very hardworking.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Yet one hears so many complaints about racial harassment, starting with the immigration authorities at Heathrow!

Prime Minister

Look! Hundreds of thousands of people come to Britain. They have a very very difficult time at Heathrow. I think it is 237,000 people came to Britain last year. 99%; were admitted.

But look! A moment ago, you were tackling me about some Sikh extremists. We have to look at people coming into Heathrow and everywhere else to see they do not include Sikh extremists or any other extremists if we are to keep control. Also, we do have rules about immigration and we have to uphold them and it is to the advantage of people who are living here, including our Asian community, that we do uphold them.

I will give you the figure of Asian people who came in last year: 237,000 of whom 99%; …   . last year, 37 million international passengers arrived at United Kingdom ports in 1984. The average [end p21] time taken on the initial examination of those passengers who need to have formal need to enter takes slightly more than one minute. A small percentage is questioned further and, of course, there may be some delay while their cases are resolved. Even so, of the 237,000 passengers arriving in this country from India in 1984, over 99%; were granted admission.

Now, we have got to look carefully. We do not want any more problems here from people who are coming in. That is not a bad record and I am glad that you have given me time …

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

The figures are excellent, but it is not only the figures. People talk about attitude, the general attitude towards people who are coming in.

Prime Minister

As I indicated, for the overwhelming majority it takes about 60 seconds or just over a minute, which is quite good. But then, there are some people where something perhaps is not quite right and so you put them into one room aside and of course it takes time to give attention because you have got the whole main stream of people coming through.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Coming back to bilateral relations, Britain is one of the major suppliers of defence equipment to India and a number of projects are under discussion. One of them is the manufacture [end p22] of a light combat aircraft in India for which I think Britain is one of the countries trying a new technology. Would you have any hesitation in passing on the latest technology?

Prime Minister

We never discuss publicly defence contracts. It is known that we do not discuss them publicly. We do our level best when we are dealing with friendly countries like India to meet their requirements obviously, of course we would. But on a particular thing, then we have to discuss the particulars.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

This has been under discussion for quite some time. I am talking of generalities and the transfer of technology.

Prime Minister

Particular contracts I am not familiar with, obviously. Those are under discussion between the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, but we do not talk publicly. There are many people who come to negotiate particular contracts and they do not wish them to be discussed in great detail.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

What I was trying to find out is that for any political reasons it would not be …   . [end p23]

Prime Minister

We regard India as a great political friend. She is the biggest democracy in the world. We try not to put obstacles in the way, but there are some things we have to talk through before we can agree to them.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Do you see any scope for joint ventures between the Indians and your companies, in third countries?

Prime Minister

I think we have quite a number of joint ventures, don't we? It is very obvious that with India's enormous engineering and technical competence and achievements and some of ours, that there are times when we can get together and put up bids for business in third countries, and I believe that is happening. I cannot speak too highly of some of the engineering, some of the computer work, that is done. It is of the highest grade and the highest possible calibre and we are very proud to work with it.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Coming back to Mr. Gandhi 's visit, this morning's papers speak of the police having uncovered some plot to assassinate him. Have you been informed of that?

Prime Minister

We do not discuss these things publicly. We are aware that some people have been detained. We do not discuss these things publicly. [end p24]

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Is this a preventive measure or is there something more to it?

Prime Minister

We do not discuss these things publicly. We do not try people on radio or television. We use our powers to protect our guests.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

You had struck up an excellent friendship with Mrs. Gandhi, despite political differences you had. How do you get along with Mr. Gandhi?

Prime Minister

I am a great admirer of Mr. Gandhi. I have been a great admirer of him for a time, a long time. I used to meet him before he was Prime Minister. He is a superb Prime Minister of India; a worthy Head of a very great country.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

One last question. Have you had time to study the proposals made by the Soviet Union for direct talks with Britain and France? The French have rejected it.

Prime Minister

Our reply is the same as it has always been. Our nuclear weapons are only about 2½%; of the amount that the Soviet Union [end p25] has got and they are at the moment at a minimum necessary to maintain an independent deterrent. So there can be no question of reducing them. If by any chance the Soviet Union had enormous cuts and the whole situation changed substantially, then of course we would consider talks with the Soviet Union, but you do not give up your 2½%; when someone else has got 100%;. In comparison, when someone else has got such overwhelming strength, there can be little point in talking about it at the present time.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

Your Government gave a cautious welcome to the proposals when they were made.

Prime Minister

No, we did not give a cautious welcome. We said: well this is very interesting and we are always prepared to talk, but what is the point of talking when you have only got 2½%; of the number that they have? For every 100 they have got, we have only got 2½, or put it this way: for every 5 we have got, they have got 200! You are not exactly going to give up the little you have got under those circumstances. That is only common sense.

Mr M.K. Razdan, Press Trust of India

You do not see any point in talking?

Prime Minister

Not at present.