International Affairs



Rt. Hon'ble Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern,
Lady Mackay, Lord Templeman,

It gives me great pleasure to extend a warm welcome to you and Lady Mackay, and to Lord Templeman on the occasion of your visit to India. I am indeed honoured that you could be here with us together with Lady Mackay who has added charm and elegance to your delegation. In Lord Templeman we have, like yourself, a long-standing and ardent friend of India and a renowned legal luminary. In your high office you combine, Lord Chancellor, a trinity of roles, as Speaker of the House of Lords, as Head of the Judiciary and as Cabinet Minister for Justice. We welcome you in all these elevated capacities, but especially as a true friend of India, and as one deeply interested in the promotion of friendship and co-operation between our two countries.

Mahatma Gandhi used to say, in the thick of our freedom struggle, that we have come a long way with the British and when we part company, we should do so as friends. That friendship has now matured with modern content and contemporary relevance for us as well as for the world. Since the visit to India of Prime Minister, Mr. John Major, in January, 1993, Indo-British relations have received a new thrust and a new momentum.

Your visit, Lord Chancellor, is taking place at the upswing of this new phase. Our relationship highlights the fundamental principles at the basis of the British and Indian polity viz. democracy and the rule of law. The rule of law is the very foundation of the Indian Constitution. The sturdy independence of the Courts of Justice in India and the trust of the people in their fairness, is one of the factors that sustains our democracy and our State in the midst of all our diversities, differences and problems. It is also one of the strongest bonds that exist between our two countries.

Mahatma Gandhi once remarked that if it was said that India learned the spirit of democracy from Great Britain no one would deny that statement, though it must be admitted that the roots were to be found in the old panchayat system. Democracy is a method of government and a system of values we share in a sense that is profound. However the fact is that the significance of Indian democracy is not understood in the West widely enough. In the post-war and in the immediate of post-independence period when there were threats to democracy in the world and when one developing country after another went down to one form of authoritarianism or other, the fact that India remained a democracy did, to my mind, exercise some influence in tilting the balance in favour of democracy.

Today at the very moment of the triumph of democracy and liberalism on a world-scale, there is peering over the horizon new potential threats to democracy. One aspect of this new threat was stressed by Lord Templeman during a recent debate in the House of Lords. If I may be permitted to quote, he said: "All over the world democratic societies are threatened by violence which is practised and exploited by secessionists, terrorists, fundamentalists and criminals, particularly drug-traffickers." I believe that the time has come for the international community to realize the magnitude of this new menace to the democratic way of life, to human rights and orderly civilized existence. It is a hopeful development, transcending in its significance Indo-British bilateral relations, that our two countries have joined together in strengthening defences against the new barbarism of international terrorism.

The Indo-U.K. Extradition Treaty has already come into force, and the Confiscation Agreement is expected to come into effect soon. The overwhelming support these Agreements received in both Houses of the British Parliament has been whole-heartedly welcomed in India. As Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, I am particularly grateful to the House of Lords for the strong and well-reasoned support it gave to this Treaty.

As I said earlier we are committed to democracy and secularism. In a pluralist society like that of ours the best guarantee for unity and harmonious living together is democracy and secularism. At the heart of this approach is what is to-day described as human rights, but what is enshrined in our Constitution as fundamental rights of the people. It is the inescapable duty of the State to protect the democratic structure and the life and liberty of the people against violence and terrorism. But true to our democratic credo, we believe that even while fighting the menace of terrorism, human rights ought to be respected and protected. It is for this reason that our Parliament has recently passed an Act setting up a National Human Rights Commission.

I may add that rights devoid of adequate economic content are unlikely to be effective rights. It is in this context that we have embarked upon a bold programme of liberalising and restructuring our economy. I am glad to acknowledge with gratitude that in this effort of ours we have received whole-hearted understanding and generous support from the Government and people of Britain.

Lord High Chancellor, your visit to India at this juncture has helped a great deal in emphasizing the basic principles and ideals as well as the economic, political and cultural relations that bind us together as two friendly nations, as members of that unique institution, the Commonwealth of Nations and as members of the larger world community.

Once again may I say how happy we are that you and Lady Mackay together with Lord Templeman could visit us. The eminent position that you occupy in your country, your distinguished judicial, academic and political career has endowed your visit with a special significance.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I now invite you to join in a toast to:

- the good health and well-being of the
Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom
and Lady Mackay
- the continued progress and prosperity
of the people of the U.K. and
- friendship and co-operation between
our two countries and peoples.

And a very Happy New Year to all.

Jai Hind