Margaret Thatcher did not approve of the state of emergency in
force during her visit to India in 1976. But she was so touched by
a gesture of her host and prime minister Indira Gandhi that she
made it a point to mention it in her memoirs.
"I lunched with Indira Gandhi in her own modest home, where she
insisted on seeing that her guests were all looked after, and
clearing away the plates while discussing matters of high
politics," Thatcher, who died Monday, wrote in "The Path to
"Both her sons, Sanjay and Rajiv, were present, although it was
the former who had most to say for himself. He had, indeed,
allegedly been responsible for many of the abuses such as forced
sterilisation and compulsory re-housing which had provoked such
bitter opposition," she said.
"But in spite of everything I found myself liking Mrs. Gandhi
herself. Perhaps, I naturally sympathised with a woman politician
faced with the huge strains and difficulties of governing a
country as vast as India."
Thatcher had visited India in September 1976 as an opposition
leader, three years before she became prime minister, at the
invitation of Indira Gandhi. The British press had criticised her
for her comment post-visit: "I came to learn and not to comment."
Yet, in her memoirs, Thacker did say that she did not see
eye-to-eye on Indira Gandhi's emergency and the restrictions on
"In spite of a long self justificatory account she gave me of why
the state of emergency had been necessary, I could not approve of
her government's methods," said Thatcher, who was called the Iron
Lady for the way she handled some pressing labour issues.
"She had taken a wrong turning and was to discover the fact at her
Party's devastating election defeat in 1977," Thatcher added.
The fact that Indira Gandhi's gesture of clearing the plates
herself had touched Thatcher is also mentioned in the declassified
documents from British archives that were released in December