NEW DELHI, India Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and members of India’s new parliament took the oath of office today and Gandhi pledged he would not use his massive election victory to silence the opposition.
In elections last month, Gandhi’s Congress Party accounted for an unprecedented 401 seats in the country’s powerful lower house of parliament, while opposition parties filled 107 seats.
Gandhi, the son of slain Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was sworn in to thunderous applause from fellow party members and delivered a 50minute speech pledging not to use the party’s parliamentary majority to suppress the opposition in the world’s most populous democracy.
He also made an apparent reference to India’s favored relationship with the Soviet Union, which came to India’s aid during three wars with Pakistan, over the United States.
He said India wants “friendship with all nations,” but ‘‘we will keep in view the countries which have helped us in the past and on those on whom we can rely.”
Gandhi said his government has taken steps to resolve India’s two most troublesome internal problems in the states of Punjab, where majority Sikhs are seeking more autonomy in the predominately Hindu country, and Assam, where militant leaders are pressing the government to deport illegal aliens from Bangladesh.
But he said “the issues involved could be sorted out only when they (the parties) ended their posture of confrontation.”
“The government is prepared to negotiate but not at the cost of the nation’s integrity,’’ Gandhi said.
The prime minister also said he would work to strength democracy in the ethnically diverse country of 750 million, the world’s second most populous nation behind China.
Article extracted from this publication >> January 18, 1985