I feel doubly honoured by Mrs Sonia Gandhi in being asked to deliver this lecture in Bangalore, the second I have given in honour of Rajiv Gandhi. His death was not only an incalculable loss to India but also to the wider world in whose councils he was already playing an influential and visionary part.
Both Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi were conscious of the need to promote the development of India's economy in order to give her growing population a brighter prospect of a better life. Mrs Gandhi took an intensely practical interest in India's agriculture, which from the late 1960s underwent what has been called the "Green Revolution". I well remember how at the 1981 Cancun Summit on North-South issues Mrs Gandhi rejected the notion advanced by some experts that what developing countries needed was assistance with sophisticated projects. Instead, she argued, simpler agricultural equipment was what the country's farmers really needed. But Mrs Gandhi, like her father, was not convinced of the merits of the market.
Rajiv, by contrast, was. His quiet voice and charm concealed an iron will and a passion to get things right so that the people of India could realise their enormous potential. I heard him speak at the UN General Assembly one year. As soon as he began, the auditorium fell quiet as the audience was conscious that a new phase in India's fortunes had begun. His manner was assured and as confident as his powerful message. He never shrank from the call of duty. That is why we remember him not only with admiration but with affection: an affection which we also extend to Sonia and the family.
Rajiv foreshadowed the policy of economic liberalisation which was boldly initiated under Prime Minister Rao and Finance Minister Singh. These reforms are already leading to the transformation and regeneration of India's economy. And the further and faster they go the greater the gains will be.
For many years excessive controls, planning, state ownership, intervention, and taxation held this country back. Now its vast potential is beginning to be realised.
Image: In a Feb. 20, 1985 file photo, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is applauded by Vice President George Bush, left, as House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. looks on just before she addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, in Washington. Thatchers former spokesman, Tim Bell, said that the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had died Monday morning, April 8, 2013, of a stroke. She was 87. (AP)