An Interview with Rajiv Gandhi

"Democracy Has Reached Deep into the Average Indian"

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On Indian-U.S. relations. They are improving. There were tangible and positive results from my visit (to Washington in June), especially regarding the transfer of technology. One of the problems, you see, is that we really do not want to buy mediocre technology. We can develop that ourselves. What we are looking for is what we cannot do. The U.S. today is one of our biggest trading partners, and has been for some time. More than the Soviet Union. Our differences have not affected our economic relations. On the political side, we feel the U.S. has been too demanding of its--What should I say?--allies. Demanding in an undemocratic way. We believe that we should be able to speak our minds on international issues, and we will. But the U.S. might not like that. South Africa, for example, or a new economic order, or the Israeli attack on P.L.O. headquarters in Tunisia are issues where it is not a question of being anti-U.S. It is a question of taking a stand that we happen to believe is correct.

On Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev. I thought he was very open (during meetings in Moscow last May). He spoke very frankly. He's got lots of new ideas for the Soviet Union. He is going to be tough as a leader. He is not going to be a pushover. He is young, dynamic. He is a leader who has sufficient backing within the system to do what he thinks has to be done. You can talk to him. I certainly think he is a man the West will do business with. I liked him. There is a certain warmth and openness in the personality that most people like.

On domestic priorities. The biggest change on the economic side has been industrial. In some areas we have not done so well, but wherever we have given a thrust we have done quite well. Nuclear power is one, space another. We have got our own launch vehicles. We make our own satellites. On the ) defense side, we have done quite a lot because certain items have not been available, and secondly because security was compromised no matter who you bought them from. Electronic systems, for example. Whoever we buy them from knows what we've got, so we have to make our own. And we are fairly good at it.

Agriculture has been most important. With a lot of help from the U.S., there has been a green revolution. What we really need now is a long-term policy rather than our usual short-term decisions. But we are beyond the danger of famine. Who would have believed this possible 20 years ago?

Where we have not done so well is education. We have not invested enough by anybody's standards, not even our own. Our major task is going to be changing our way of thinking, to think more positively, more modern. We must be able to use technology and modern methods in our daily work.

But, of course, population control is still our biggest problem. One of the factors that will (help) is education, especially for women. We are finding that the traditional methods, apart from family planning and population control, are now giving us reduced results. Those states which have high levels of education already have low birth rates.

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