Mrs. Gandhi Tells Me of Her Frightening Responsibilities
Plain Truth Magazine
July 1971
Volume: Vol XXXVI, No.7
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Mrs. Gandhi Tells Me of Her Frightening Responsibilities

Personal from Herbert W Armstrong

   ONE OF THE most horrifying calamities ever to visit masses of humans has just fallen on the shoulders of a woman as one of numerous problems to solve.
   The whole world was shocked as news headlines told of the mounting mass deaths caused by the cholera epidemic hitting victims from East Pakistan fleeing into India.
   Last December in my personal meeting with the Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi told me of the crushing burden of the problems that are her responsibility. One of her most serious problems was that of the Pakistan refugees, then at the rate of about 1,500 per day, streaming across the border into India — destitute, helpless, for her overburdened government to feed, clothe and house.
   Then, since my visit with her, the Pakistani problem erupted as if "all hell had broken loose." East Pakistan exploded into civil war. The refugee problem was increased to an overwhelming extent. Then, late May, the cholera epidemic started, spreading to a gigantic calamity in early June. On top of this, the monsoon rains broke over eastern India June 5th. By that time Indian estimates were that the spread of cholera had already killed 5,000 refugees in India who had fled from East Pakistan.
   Mrs. Gandhi had flown promptly to Calcutta to obtain first-hand information on the raging epidemic. She had appealed to other nations for help. Medical aid was being air-lifted to Calcutta and Eastern India from Britain, the United States and other countries. On June 5th three Indian States, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Assam sealed their borders against further refugees. Inside East Pakistan, with no medical aid, conditions were reported worse. Huge refugee camps were quickly organized to prevent spreading the cholera epidemic into Calcutta and other cities and towns.
   I happen to be writing this month's personal in Israel, where 78 Ambassador College students have just arrived to spend the summer working on our huge archaeological project west and south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. And this is as far east as I will go at this time. I have no desire to investigate personally the cholera area. Last night the International Cultural Center Youth staged a special program to welcome the Ambassador students. Ambassador is a joint participant in this cultural center for youth as well as in the archaeological project. The center was founded by Minister of Tourism Moshe Kol and Eleanor Roosevelt. Tomorrow night is a special dinner in my honor being given at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. My son Garner Ted, with our television crew are to arrive Friday to do a television documentary on Israel and the Middle East condition.

A Cordial Visit

   Last December, when I had the meeting with Mrs. Gandhi, rumors were rife about Mrs. Gandhi's "supposed" turn toward the left, and her "supposed" autocratic tendencies. I had been told I would find her cold, haughty and overbearing. The prediction was made of an impending clash between her and leaders of the conservative opposition.
   I found her quite the contrary. As in other meetings with heads of state, I was accompanied by Mr. Stanley R. Rader, our general legal counsel, and Mr. Osamu Gotoh, chairman of the Department of Asian Studies at Ambassador. We found Mrs. Gandhi very warm and cordial, with a charming personality and welcoming smile.
   And within a very few days after our visit she, in fact, dissolved parliament and announced that elections would be held forthwith. When we were passing through New Delhi again in February, she was away from the capital, campaigning shortly prior to the election, which she won with a landslide victory. Her power has been consolidated to a degree totally unexpected from her opposition.
   When she received us in her office at the Parliament in New Delhi. I presented her with a piece of Steuben crystal. Before I could open the distinctive Steuben red leather gift box, her face lit up with a happy smile and she exclaimed: "Ah, a piece of beautiful Steuben." She said she had always admired Steuben crystal. Her father, the late Prime Minister Nehru, had received several gifts of this type of art. It is often given to heads of state.
   I handed Mrs. Gandhi a copy of the latest PLAIN TRUTH, and the booklet This Is Ambassador College. She reviewed them with great interest and nodded permission to Mr. Gotoh to photograph her reading them.
   I then explained to the Prime Minister of the second most populous nation on earth that Ambassador College would like to send its television crew to do a television documentary on India. Mrs. Gandhi responded that she would welcome an Ambassador College television production on India. I had promised her that it would present India's problems fairly and honestly and in an educational manner.
   Mrs. Gandhi then expressed great interest in the Ambassador College agricultural research program at our Texas and English campuses. In answer to questions I explained at some length these activities and the gratifying results being achieved.

Analyses of National Issues

   I then asked the Prime Minister to tell us about India's problems and also her problems as Chief of State — and of progress being made. She then spoke, uninterrupted (except by notes being handed to her by a secretary of the arrival of cabinet members for appointments with her). But she rejected interruption and spoke for the next twenty minutes in answer to my question.
   She explained first that India does have immense problems of every description. There are no problems confronting mankind that cannot be readily found without effort in India. But she was deeply concerned that journalists, television producers and commentators, and other writers and observers, fail to note carefully the way India is attempting to cope with, and improve, each of the problems. Also, they too often fail to report the progress that India has made during her brief history as an independent nation since 1947.
   Mrs. Gandhi explained that most of India's problems stem from immense population, its enormous birthrate and its agricultural resources — or its lack of the same. For the sake of comparison, she noted India gives birth each year to a population equal to the entire population of Australia. India is making every effort to lower the birthrate, but education and time will be needed.
   There have been agricultural reforms. Much progress in agricultural production has taken place but there have been significant setbacks because of the natural elements. As irrigation becomes more widespread, many of the agricultural needs will be alleviated. In the meantime, India is grateful for the aid received from the U. S. and elsewhere.
   The Prime Minister was very much interested in Ambassador College's worldwide educational extension program, and she noted that the educational needs of India should be significantly helped by such a program. But that, again, much time would be needed to correct India's educational system. Efforts had been made to make education compulsory, but the means of enforcing the compulsory education were not readily at hand.
   I mentioned my discussions with President Marcos of the Philippines and his "green revolution." Mrs. Gandhi said that she was well aware of the progress being made in the Philippines, and indicated that India was also making great strides with its "green revolution."
   I mentioned, or possibly she noted independently, our association with Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a brief discussion ensued about the Kibbutz system. She seemed to suggest some interest in the adaptability of such cooperative efforts in India.
   Mrs. Gandhi said that India has been confronted with an ever-increasing problem of refugees from East Pakistan. These refugees were then coming into India at the rate of some 1,500 persons per day. Most of them find their way to Calcutta and make conditions there, already bad, increasingly worse. She called our attention to the increasing political and civil strife in East Pakistan and also Calcutta as a result of this refugee problem.
   Democracy, Mrs. Gandhi insisted, will prevail in India despite the rumors to the contrary. She said that she believed very strongly in democratic institutions herself and was confident that they had been successfully adopted by her people.
   I then alluded to the Palestinian refugee problem in the Middle East. I advised Mrs. Gandhi of Ambassador College's efforts to promote world peace and understanding everywhere and explained how Ambassador College had given assistance to the Jordanian Government refugee problem through the purchase of radio time. Also I advised the Prime Minister of our support of the International Cultural Center for Youth in Jerusalem where young Arabs and young Israelis are brought together and taught to respect the customs and traditions and individual differences of the other.
   I then explained that I had recently visited with Deputy Prime Minister Allon in Israel and that Mr. Allon had sent his very warmest regards to Mrs. Gandhi and expressed great admiration for her and her father, Mr. Nehru Deputy Prime Minister Allon had asked me to convey to the Indian Prime Minister that he was deeply concerned that India did not have diplomatic relations with Israel and was, therefore, unable to learn firsthand about Middle East problems as viewed from Israel's vantage point. Mrs. Gandhi shrugged and explained why the government of India was unable to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. She expressed admiration for Israel as well as sympathy for Israel's difficulties, but she said her problems were very much complicated in relation to Israel because of Pakistan, which is a Moslem state.
   Mrs. Gandhi said that she had heard very nice things about Ambassador College and myself from President Giri and from her minister of information. She said that she would look forward with great interest to our articles about India, and to a WORLD TOMORROW television production dealing with India's problems today. She then extended a warm invitation for us to return.

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Plain Truth MagazineJuly 1971Vol XXXVI, No.7