Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in his first policy address since becoming leader of the world's largest democracy, said tonight that India values its "time-tested" ties to the Soviet Union but will also pursue a "multifaceted relationship" with the United States.
In a nationally televised speech the day after ending 12 days of mourning for his mother, assassinated prime minister Indira Gandhi, the new Indian leader committed himself to "build the India of her dreams." But he also outlined new approaches, pledging to modernize his administration and make it "more goal-oriented" with a "new work ethic."
He reaffirmed India's adherence to socialism but said that the private sector -- backed by new technology -- has the capacity to enhance the productive potential of the economy.
"We must have the courage to boldly innovate, for change is demanded in our methods of work," he said, in a speech that appeared to be an attempt to give a progressive cast to his new leadership on the eve of a crucial parliamentary election campaign. "As we build today, so will be the tomorrow. Together we will build for an India of the 21st century."
He promised that those who strive toward rebuilding India will enjoy his protection from interference or political pressure, but he warned that "I also want to tell them that no quarter will be given to the corrupt, the lazy and the inefficient."
"Our administration must become more goal-oriented. A new work ethic, a new culture must be evolved in which the government is result-bound and not procedure-bound," said Gandhi, who long has had an interest in computer technology.
Gandhi, 40, who was educated in the West and has an Italian-born wife, entered politics only three years ago, following the death of his brother, Sanjay, in a stunt plane accident. Before that, Rajiv Gandhi had been a pilot for Indian Airlines, and had eschewed the political career that four generations of the Nehru family had followed.
In a conciliatory tone, Gandhi said today that secularism is the "bedrock of our nationhood," and that answering sectarian violence with hatred and intolerance would only further divide India.
He also said he wanted to develop closer relationships with India's neighbors, particularly Pakistan, with which India has fought three wars in the past 37 years.
Of India's relationship with the Soviet Union and the United States, Gandhi said, "We have always been friends with the East and the West, as they are called, and we want better relations between them." He added, "We attach importance to our economic, technological and cultural cooperation with the United States."
Earlier in the day, as expected, Gandhi was unanimously elected by the Congress (I) Party's governing body to succeed his mother as party president, a post that also was held by his great-grandfather, Motilal Nehru; his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister; and Mohandas K. Gandhi, who led India to independence from British rule (and is no relation).
Party official Kamlapati Tripathi, who presided over the meeting, told Gandhi, "With the addition of this responsibility, now you are carrying a huge burden on your shoulders. We, the Congress men, will cooperate with you and assist you."
The meeting was attended by 71 state and national party leaders. While the committee is not empowered to set a date for parliamentary elections, it urged Gandhi to hold balloting on schedule before the mandatory reconstitution of the Parliament on Jan. 20. Gandhi reportedly said he would consult the chief ministers of the states about a date for the election, which is expected the last week of December or the first week of January.
Gandhi told the party leaders that before his mother was assassinated by Sikh bodyguards on Oct. 31, she had warned Indians about the dangers the nation faced from divisive and subversive forces. He added, "We must understand what Mrs. Gandhi wanted to tell us."
Echoing a theme often sounded by his mother, Gandhi accused the opposition parties of playing into the hands of "disruptive forces" that, he said, are bent upon breaking up the country. He said these forces include "extremists working from within and outside," but he did not specify from where.
Gandhi, who had been one of five general secretaries of the party, was not present for the vote on his accession to the leadership, and he remained at the party headquarters for only about 30 minutes before returning to his office.
With the end of 12 days of mourning for the assassinated prime minister, Gandhi arrived this morning at the office that his mother occupied for nearly 16 years and was conducted into the wood-paneled suite by P.C. Alexander, his and his mother's principal secretary and adviser. It was Gandhi's first visit to the office since his swearing-in Oct. 31.
The newly appointed police commissioner for New Delhi, S.S. Jog, announced today that an internal inquiry will be held into the "limitations, drawbacks and also failures" of the 35,000-man police force in its handling of the wave of arson, looting and murder that followed the assassination.
Jog, whom Gandhi appointed in a shakeup of the police command following charges that police abetted -- and even participated in -- murder of Sikhs and looting of their property, said in a press conference that "the failures will not -- definitely -- be let off." Jog, in an effort to restore the public's confidence in the police, said "everyone" in the force will come under scrutiny.
Meanwhile, a New Delhi-based correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., arrested by police in Punjab Saturday for violating a ban on entry of foreigners into the state, was ordered by a magistrate to be held until a hearing on Nov. 21, according to the United News of India agency.
The correspondent, Jonathan Mann, was arrested in the Golden Temple compound in Amritsar, the agency said. The ban on foreigners in Punjab was imposed several days before the Indian Army forcibly entered the holy Sikh shrine on June 5 to clear it of rebellious Sikh separatists.
The Punjab State government was reported today to have banned for two months the transporting into the state of any publications containing news or editorial matter concerning the aftermath of the assassination. The ban was imposed under a "special power press act" that also prohibits the transmission from the state of any news that concerns security.s in New Delhi Associated Press
NEW DELHI, Nov. 12 -- A high-level Sov