Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Citibank in New Delhi

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: New Delhi
Source: Thatcher Archive
Editorial comments: 1330-1430. Embargoed until 1430 local time.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3773
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Autobiography (childhood), Civil liberties, Conservatism, Conservative Party (history), Economic policy - theory and process, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy - theory and process, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Race, immigration, nationality


India has a deep fascination for me, as it does for so many English people. I gleaned my first knowledge of it from the marvellous poems and stories of Rudyard Kipling, with their vivid descriptions of real life, and he remains to this day my favourite source of quotations. From his poems we learned that essential wisdom and insight into human nature which is still relevant in today's world.

But I remember something else as well when I was young: and that is the pride we all felt in India: in her splendour, her mystery, her colour and the indefinable affinity we felt with her people. And perhaps that is not so surprising because each of our countries has a strong tradition and a long history, which gives us both a confidence and a sense of continuity.

So strongly was this felt in my family that when, like most children, I was asked the question “What would you like to do when you grow up?” my reply was “To become part of the Indian Civil Service” . To which my father had the foresight to reply (remember this was the mid-1930s) “There probably won't be one by the time you are qualified” .

It was only much later that I had my first direct experience of India and that was when I visited your country as Secretary of State for Education and Science in the 1970s when I saw a very different side of India: the huge reservoir of talented people, your ancient prowess in mathematics and science, as later described so vividly in the Festival of India in 1982, the advances in medicine, in computing skills and in civil nuclear power.

I came to India several times as Prime Minister and had the privilege then and subsequently of getting to know three of your own Prime Ministers. The first was Indira Gandhi with whom I instinctively felt a very special personal affinity. Even though we certainly didn't agree on everything, we were able to talk things through with a frankness and understanding which was matchless. Both of us knew and understood the loneliness of office. Later I made the sad journey to Delhi for her funeral, the victim of an assassination. It was a particularly poignant occasion, for only three weeks before I myself had so narrowly escaped injury in the bomb blast in Brighton and Mrs Gandhi had sent me a note of sympathy for those who had been killed in which she expressed her horror that such things should happen in a civilised society.

Then of course I knew Rajiv Gandhi well. He fearlessly took up the challenge of terrorism and eventually paid with his life, but only after he had infused Indians with a renewed pride in their country and enthusiasm for India's future opportunities.

Lastly and most recently, Prime Minister Rao who, together with Finance Minister Dr Singh, is courageously carrying through the difficult task of reforming and liberalising India's economy within an established framework of democratic politics.

I have some experience of that myself!

In the Eighties in Britain we had to rein in the power of the trade unions and make them democratically accountable to their members. We had to get government out of running business, for which it has no talent or qualifications, and give management the power to manage, through our programme of privatisation. We had to cut regulations and cut public expenditure, to reduce the overburdening apparatus of central government, and we cut tax to increase the incentives to effort.

All these changes were vital for Britain's future and for ending our nation's decline. They were steps which had not been attempted before because somehow the people and politicians had come to see the advance of socialism as inevitable. Well we proved them wrong–but it was tough going. So I know both how difficult the tasks facing Prime Minister Rao are and how vital it is for India's future that he should succeed–just as it was vital for Britain's future that I did.

India and Britain

The destinies of our two countries began to flow together through trade and then were linked politically for well over a century. Neither of us should be self-conscious about the contribution each made to the other during that time. I hope you will agree that we contributed quite a lot: a highly professional civil service, a rule of law with independent courts of justice, and a strong, non-political military tradition.

They were ours and they became yours: you took them on and built on them in your own inimitable way. From the time when history thrust our two countries together we have developed a close understanding–between the world's oldest democracy and the world's largest democracy. It is a relationship based on deep and instinctive friendship, something which Mahatma Gandhi himself recognised when he said while visiting London in 1931 “I am carrying with me thousands upon thousands of English friendships. I do not know them, but I read the affection in their eyes.....”

Here in New Delhi we can see the physical embodiment of the British legacy. Lutyens's magnificent “new” city was built to reflect the greatness of India. These buildings stand as a reminder of the past and a symbol of the present–the stones of empire became the home of democracy.

I was fortunate enough to have Lutyens's grandson, Nicholas Ridley, in my own cabinet and I often remarked to him that it was a great tragedy that Britain had not had the common sense to invite his grandfather to redesign some of our own cities! As so often we exported our best.

We are just as proud of India's contribution to Britain, both through history and in contemporary times.

We came to know your great wisdom and philosophy, your art and science. The Indian Empire gave us both a stature and self-confidence that enabled us to play the role in the world which the instincts and traditions of our peoples demanded. That desire for an influential voice in world affairs is just as characteristic of India as it is of Britain. When the call of duty came to defend freedom against the tyrannies of this century, India recruited on a voluntary basis more than two million men–the largest voluntary recruitment ever recorded throughout history. Later, India was to become a powerful advocate on behalf of the Non-Aligned movement which it led.

Today we hear much talk of expanding the Permanent Membership of the United Nations Security Council. Personally, I would say leave well alone, but if there is to be a change, no country has a better claim than India as the world's largest democracy, its second most populous country and the greatest regional power in South Asia: a stronger claim, surely, than that of any other candidate.

May I also pay tribute to the exceptional contribution which the Indian community in Britain makes to our national life. Their strong sense of family, their instinct for commerce and their passionate desire for education are an example to other groups, and so is their capacity for hard work and their success.

And in my own constituency most of them also had the good sense to vote Conservative!

Democracy–a Universal Cause

India derives unique authority from her unwavering commitment to democracy. Your experience makes nonsense of the argument which one occasionally hears, that democracy and human rights are somehow not suitable or practical for large and populous countries nor for Asia.

India's message to the world is that democracy is not just a Western concept. It is a vibrant, living force drawing on beliefs and traditions which are centuries old and which have their origins in varied civilisations across the globe. Of course in recent history it has been moulded by Western thought and Western practice but perhaps in some of its most basic characteristics it shares a great deal with the village assemblies which dominated Indian life thousands of years ago.

Moreover all human beings have certain things in common. We are all born into a family and into a community. We all have a sense of good and evil, a natural moral sense and a conscience. We all recognise and admire bravery and heroism. The child instinctively wants to please its parents and the parent naturally wants to protect the child. Surely this is what we call human nature. What makes men human is common to them all and acts as a bridge between them.

The fundamental rights–freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of movement, freedom of association and liberty under the law–are not the property of any group of countries, nor the hallmark of one culture as opposed to others. They apply universally. Combined with representative government they are the core of democracy.

And democracy is gaining ground. In 1993 Freedom House, an organisation which monitors these things, found that there were 75 democratic countries, up from 55 a decade earlier; but 31 per cent of the world's population, the greater part in China, still lived under repressive regimes, this is down from 44 per cent a decade ago. 1994 has seen an important addition to these figures as South Africa has been brought to full democracy. I hope before long that Cuba will join them.

The Great Experiment

Political and personal freedom are only part of the equation. They are inseparable from economic freedom. Whichever one you start with you will find that you finish with them all.

That was how our forefathers expected liberty to progress. They could not possibly have foreseen that this century would witness the two worst tyrannies and the two worst wars the world has ever known.

Nazism and fascism were defeated in battle but Stalin's Russia continued to pursue its ambition of world hegemony. As Winston Churchill observed, an Iron Curtain was brought down dividing the world in two.

On the one side, the way of freedom.

On the other, communism, the way of coercion.

For 70 years they coexisted, indeed it seemed as though the world had unwittingly entered into a great experiment to decide which was the better way of life for our peoples. Then the Communist system collapsed and its cruelties and poverty of spirit became clear to all.

The Free World could point to the failings of Communism to deliver material progress or human rights as proof positive that the diametrically opposite system–of free institutions, free enterprise and a free people–was the key to the success of the democratic world.

Some 36 million people have been killed in battle this century–an enormous sacrifice. But recent statistics now tell the horrific story of what really happened under Communism and other tyrannies. At least 119 million people have been killed by government genocide, massacres and other mass killings.

And about 115 million of these were killed by totalitarian governments as many as 95 million by Communist ones.

And yet there were still those who were taken in by Communism's propaganda.

But the Battle Doesn't End

The defeat of tyranny–in this case Marxist/Leninism–without a shot being fired was a new experience. At the end of World War Two because our enemies were totally defeated we were able to go in and put in place all the right institutions.

But when it came to the end of the Cold War we had not defeated the communist regimes from without, they had collapsed from within.

So it has been mainly for the people of the communist countries themselves to bring about change.

Perhaps we underestimated the tremendous difficulty they would have in managing the transition from a tyranny to a free and responsible society.

I believe that we could, and should, have done far more through the international institutions to help.

Ten years ago we would have given almost anything for the Cold War to end. When it did, we were too absorbed in our own affairs to understand the nature of their problems or to formulate a fitting response.

Russian Roulette and Chinese Chequers

Russia has always been an important country, and always will be. There is a tendency to regard her only as a European country–but as Britain and India both have reason to know, she is also very much an Asian one too. Her borders extend from the Baltic to the Pacific, occupying 11 time zones. She is the largest country in the world, although her population is only 150 millon, whereas India's is some 870 million. Her global status must be respected and the pride of her people taken into account.

The Russians are struggling to achieve an enterprise economy. When President Gorbachev started the reform process he began by giving personal and political freedom. He did not know how to go about introducing a successful free market reform–although in his speeches he began to talk about the need for more initiative. By giving personal and political liberty, itself an enormous step forward, doubtless he hoped that more open discussion combined with outside help would point the way forward.

China took a different approach. Since 1978, Deng Xiaoping, although refusing to give personal and political liberty, has steadily encouraged a market or enterprise economy. “I wish we had started that way” , the Russian leaders used to say to me–but historically, the Russians had little taste for enterprise and their brief experience of it was snuffed out by Lenin in 1917.

Moreover, China benefited from investment from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, while Russia has no such diaspora to help her.

Perhaps the greatest difference between the Russians and the Chinese is that the Chinese are born traders. Today, in world trade terms, the “Chinese Trio” of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, is behind only the United States and Germany.

The World Bank estimates that the East Asia region as a whole imports $800 billion of goods annually–more than all the imports into the US and growing at a rate of 15 per cent per annum.

Viewed from the outside China appears to be a large but single market. In fact China is a union of many, possibly as many as forty, economic units.

As in India's case, a good number of its cities are larger than many countries and the average sized province has a population of between 50 and 60 million people. Of course with a total population of 1.1 billion there are bound to be variations in the rate of growth but with willingness to devolve economic power I do not share the opinion of some commentators who see China, like the USSR, breaking up. Her people have a cohesive political will which should hold the country together through the turbulence ahead.

Asia–Great Expectations

The transformations in Russia and China are part of a hurricane of change which has swept across Asia, carrying millions out of poverty and bringing new hope. The world has never seen such a rapid economic expansion as it is witnessing today in these areas. The age of automation has been even more radical than the age of mechanisation. “Smart” machines now transfer technology instantaneously from one country to another. Development which used to take years can be achieved in months.

Today the Asia Pacific region has the highest growth rates in the world, in spite of the recession.

- Across Asia output is doubling every ten years.

- Savings ratios are running at over 30 per cent of GDP–providing ample resources for investment.

- Asian banks hold over one third of the world's foreign currency reserves.

The “Tiger” nations, as they are called, have thrived on international competition and have demonstrated that they have the will and enterprise to present a formidable challenge to the United States and Europe.

There are some who fear that the growth in Asia will place an unbearable burden on both investment and natural resources. But they ignore the fact that this new economic dynamism will in itself generate new wealth, which in turn can be invested. They ignore the high savings ratios in these countries and they forget that the pace of technological change, as you know in India, is providing us with new ways to unlock resources all the time.

Therefore we should not see either East or Southern Asia as challengers for ever fewer resources but generators of new ones.

Just as the scene shifts in a play, so I think the next Act in world history will be played out more in Asia than in Europe, more in the Pacific than the Atlantic. This will heighten India's role in world affairs in the future–especially as she has both a full democracy and an enterprise economy.

But there are yet dangers which could upset this story of success. Even now, when we have just signed the GATT Round- which still remains to be fully ratified–the pressures between open trade and protection continue to be finely balanced.

But free trade is more than just a set of dry statistics it has much wider benefits.

It is a force for political co-operation–it is no mere chance that rising protectionism in the 1930s preceded global conflict.

It is a force which enables poor regions and countries to penetrate international markets.

We still have to convince popular opinion in Europe and the United States, and in some parts of India, that opening markets to foreign goods and services raises living standards and generates jobs. We still have to win the argument that just as economic and political freedom go together, so too do open trade and international harmony. Trade is the lifeblood of nations, the progenitor of peace.

Warming Up?–The End of the Cold War and its Effects

The end of the Cold War has had a great effect on how we view the world.

Having won the great ideological battle, the pseudo-intellectuals now pose a new argument: one that says that our way is too materialistic.

The people who propound this view have forgotten that it was Marx who described religion as the opium of the people, and he and Lenin who denied freedom and regarded the people merely as cogs in their political machine.

Economic freedom is real freedom. Just as coercion exercised on economic grounds is no less real coercion.

Countries are not rich in proportion to their natural resources; if that were so Russia would be the richest country in the world; she has everything, oil, gas, diamonds, platinum, gold, silver, the industrial metals, timber, and a rich soil. Countries are rich whose governments have policies which encourage the essential creativity of man who, in order to succeed, must work with others to produce goods and services which people choose to buy. So Japan, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and so on have no natural resources but are now among the most prosperous countries in the world.

Indeed as the Pope observed “today the decisive factor is increasingly man himself, that is his knowledge, especially his scientific knowledge, his capacity for interrelated organisation as well as his ability to perceive the needs of others and to satisfy them.”

And how does man achieve this?–through the market.

The market is not a new-fangled invention of some academic economists.

The freedom to buy and sell, to trade and barter, is the oldest system of exchange known to man. It is not merely an economic practice but also a vibrant social activity. It brings people together in a community of work and in the colourful, teeming life of the market place itself.

Only a flourishing free enterprise economy can generate the higher living standards at every level and the jobs which people need if we can honestly say that they are enjoying the benefits of freedom.

In seeking to liberate people from poverty and servitude it is the business ethic in action which is the cutting edge of progress.

I am very much aware that the scale of your problem in tackling poverty is greater than anything we in modern Britain have known. But there is no point on this account in trying to slow down the necessary economic reform which will promote prosperity and generate a multitude of new small businesses. The quickest and best way to tackle poverty is by moving swiftly to create a successful market economy.

Good News/Bad News

I for my part, certainly never believed that with the end of the Cold War we would see a new world order in the sense that some optimists used the term–although we are seeing the world ordered in a very different way. One of the lessons of history which is surely least controversial, is that there is really no limit to the perverted creeds, aggressive ambitions and utopian follies which politicians or religious fanatics can dream up given the chance. The potential for new dictators to arise and perpetrate new horrors is and always will be there. You have only to look around to see that peace has not broken out.

The good news is that:

Israel and the Palestinians have reached agreement,

there have been improvements in Cambodia and in Vietnam

and in South Africa democracy now reigns.

The bad news is that:

there are still religious fanatics (a better and more accurate term than fundamentalists) who utterly distort their creed, pursuing their ambitions through violence, which as scholars point out is without sanction in the true religion.

there are battles over boundaries and over ethnic minorities,

countries like North Korea continue to sell weapons to areas of high tension,

and there is the danger of “loose” nuclear weapons finding their way out of the huge inventories of the former Soviet Union.

Don't Forget the Nation State

There is another development. Nothing is more insidious than a fashionable consensus about international politics. And a kind of consensus among Foreign Ministers and diplomats has recently grown up according to which the great threat to all good things can be summed up in just one word: nationalism.

In fact, it is the ideology of race rather than nation which has produced most of the perversions in the past, coupled with the fact that such nations are governed by tyrants and dictators.

When conflict occurs it is not enough for the UN to pass resolutions, you need nation states because it is only they who are willing to act resolutely. Their resources and military readiness are the only real deterrent to violence and aggression, as we saw in the Gulf.

No system of collective security has ever proved effective on its own, as Henry Kissinger has pointed out.


Mr Chairman, the challenges of the next century will apply whatever walk of life we are in, whatever part of the globe we inhabit. If international strains cannot be reduced, or conflicts contained, then the twenty first century could turn out to be even more unstable than the twentieth. Stability, prosperity and harmony go hand in hand. Each contributes to the others. Remove one and the others are placed in jeopardy.

At the beginning of this century the advance of science and of democracy gave cause for optimism about the future.

No-one could have foreseen the events which were to happen.

For India it has been a century which has brought freedom, democracy and now rising prosperity.

No statement about India can be wholly complete, for India is not one people but many–a fusion of cultures, religions and languages–a land of great beauty and timeless tradition. A land of contrast, for you are a part of the East but you have a deep understanding of the West.

You have successfully built a strong and deliberately secular democracy, which in spite of the difficulties you have faced has never faltered and you have embarked on the road to economic freedom.

All of this combined with the wisdom that is India, will surely equip you to be one of the economic and political giants of the Twenty First Century.