The determined woman whose nation now dominates the subcontinent of South Asia approaches peace as she approached war with Pakistan: coldly, but optimistically. During an interview in her airy, unassuming New Delhi office, TIME Correspondent William Stewart found Prime Minister Indira Gandhi "relaxed and smiling shyly, though looking slightly wan. She was spontaneous but totally free of wartime rhetoric." Some of her comments:
ON RELATIONS WITH PAKISTAN. A Stable Pakistan is in India's interests, and we want normal, friendly and enduring relations with the new government. We do not insist that Islamabad recognize the new regime in Dacca. After all, Bangladesh is a reality; anything else is between Bangladesh and Pakistan. But Pakistan must overcome her negative attitude toward India. Whether Mr. Bhutto's new government is politically secure enough to negotiate a satisfactory settlement is not for me to say. You heard the speech he made [in which Bhutto promised peace only if New Delhi recognized the East as still a part of Pakistan]. I hope that is not all he has to say.
ON MOSCOW'S INFLUENCE. We are friends; we have always been friends. The Soviet Union recognized certain attitudes in Asia, such as racialism and colonialism. But Russia will not affect our decision making. We will not be party to any bloc.
ON U.S. POLICY. There must be more realism in America regarding the realities of modern Asia. The turmoil that has engulfed South Asia is essentially a legacy of the big-power politics from the days of John Foster Dulles. We have never believed in balance-of-power politics; it is quite out of date. But it was that sort of politics that forced us into war, even though war was not in our national interest. We are not going to allow other countries to use Pakistan as they have before.
ON THE REFUGEES. I don't see any reason why the refugees who have come to India from East Pakistan should be reluctant to go home now. They might have been inclined to stay a while ago, when the liberation of Bangladesh still seemed impossible to them. But I'm sure that the bulk of the refugees will be returned before the end of February.
ON INDIA'S STABILITY. Not a single voice has been raised for a union of the Bengalis [meaning the Bengalis of East Pakistan and their restive neighbors in India's State of West Bengal, some of whom are rumored to favor secession from India in order to join Bangladesh]. The people of Bangladesh went through hell to establish their separate identity. Why should they give it up?
ON THE CEASEFIRE. There have been suggestions [among others, from President Nixon; see page 14] that we were pressured into the cease-fire by the Russians, who in turn were being pressured by the Americans. Hah! The decision was made right here, at the moment of the surrender in Dacca. We were able to inform the Soviet Union right away only because Mr. Kuznetsov [the Soviet First Deputy Foreign Minister] happened to be here. I am not a person to be pressured—by anybody or any nation.