Your Royal Highness, Rajiv GandhiPrime Minister, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen. First let me extend a very warm welcome to you, Mr Prime Minister, to your wife and to all the members of your delegation. We are absolutely delighted to have you in Britain for this visit to which we attach very great importance indeed.
None of us will ever forget the terrible moment almost a year ago to the day when we heard of your Indira Gandhimother's death. Equally none of us who made that sad journey to Delhi will ever forget the dignity with [end p1] which you expressed the grief of a family, a nation and the world. We admired the calm authority with which you assumed office as Prime Minister. And our admiration has grown apace throughout your first year in office. What has made an impression above all has been the act of statesmanship represented by your agreement with moderate Sikh leaders, now endorsed by the people of the Punjab. We hope that agreement and that endorsement will finally convince the extremists and the terrorists that their activities are futile. And I assure you that we in Britain will do everything which our law allows to ensure [end p2] that terrorism is destroyed, and those who incite it and practice it are punished. We have this afternoon discussed some practical steps in that direction, and I was able to tell you that we are ready to extend the Suppression of Terrorism Act to India. I believe that this would be an important step forward in dealing with the problem.
We admire, too, Mr. Prime Minister, the way in which you have infused your people with new pride in their country and new hope for their future. India's green revolution, which enabled you to contribute so generously towards [end p3] alleviating the famine in Ethiopia, is already a byword. You are one of the world's great industrial countries. But that is only the beginning. I know that your vision of the future stretches far beyond this. Your own background has given you an insight unique among world leaders into the fantastic possibilities offered by technological advance. I hope that Britain can work with India to realise these dreams.
Your visit here has awakened great interest in Britain. [end p4] Indeed your interview with the Times just about completely upstaged the last day of my party conference! I hope that I shall be offered equal time in the Indian Press during your next conference. I know that neither you nor your wife are strangers here: indeed it was Britain's privilege to provide the place where you met. Indeed now I come to think of it, it's about the best thing that Cambridge has done being in all other respects unable to match up to … .
But that interest, Prime Minister, is not just a passing whim enlivened by your visit. [end p5] There is a deep fascination among our people with the past experiences which Britain and India have shared. This has been stimulated by some excellent films and television series—and I am very pleased that Richard Attenborough, who made that marvellous film Gandhi, is here tonight. There is also a quickening of interest in the modern India, which the presence of our substantial Indian community has helped to develop. We are proud, Mr Prime Minister, to welcome them among us. We admire and sometimes envy their capacity [end p6] for hard work and for success. We are appalled at those very few but no less sickening acts of violence which have been inflicted upon them.
Prime Minister, it is proper on these occasions to refer to our mutual trade and investment—and indeed they are of very great importance, as is our cooperation in defence matters, our fellow membership of the Commonwealth and many other aspects of our joint affairs. But tonight it is the friendship of Britain and India that I want to stress. The friendship born of history and sealed by the lives of Indian soldiers in two world [end p7] wars. The friendship born of commitment to democratic values, shared by one of the world's oldest democracies and India, the world's greatest democracy. The friendship which Mahatma Gandhi recognised when he said in London in 1931. “I am carrying with me thousands upon thousands of English friendships. I do not know them, but I read that affection in their eyes …”
Prime Minister, Mrs Gandhi, the people of Britain welcome you with that same affection. And I ask you all to rise and drink a toast [end p8] to our friendship, and to India's success and prosperity.