What they told ex-British PM Margaret Thatcher before her India visit

Updated on Jul 21, 2015 01:18 PM IST
Confidential and detailed personality profiles of leading figures in the Indian government were given by the foreign office to former prime minister Margaret Thatcher before she left for New Delhi to attend the cremation of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.
British prime minister Margaret Thatcher along with her husband Denis Thatcher, pays homage to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at Teen Murti House, in New Delhi on November 3, 1984. (The Hindu archives)
British prime minister Margaret Thatcher along with her husband Denis Thatcher, pays homage to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at Teen Murti House, in New Delhi on November 3, 1984. (The Hindu archives)
Hindustan Times | By, London

Confidential and detailed personality profiles of leading figures in the Indian government were given by the foreign office to former prime minister Margaret Thatcher before she left for New Delhi to attend the cremation of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984.

The profiles were part of the cache of documents declassified and released by National Archives on Thursday, and included a profile of London-based industrialist Swraj Paul, who was identified in the ‘India’ list as a ‘close friend of Mrs Gandhi’.

The profiles were sent marked ‘Confidential’ by PF Ricketts in the Foreign Office to CD Powell in 10 Downing Street on November 1, 1984 alongwith a covering letter with the subject line ‘Mrs Gandhi’s funeral’. The cremation was held in New Delhi on November 3, 1984.

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher with Indira Gandhi in New Delhi. (HT File Photo)

Besides biographical details of the individuals, the profiles included interesting assessments of their personalities and their position in India’s political establishment at the time. While several have since passed away, some of the leaders profiled occupy important positions today.

The declassified papers show that within hours of the assassination on October 31, 1984, Thatcher chastised the BBC for providing a platform to Sikh extremists in Britain, amid fears that the coverage could lead to India cancelling defence contracts.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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