fifty years ago February 26, 1971 Archives

From the Archives (February 26, 1971): India’s ‘final warning’ to U.K.

India today gave what diplomatic observers believe to be “the last and final” warning to Britain that if its decision to sell arms to South Africa was final and irrevocable, it would be “an exercise in futility for the (eight-nation) study group to meet.” The final warning has come from the Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Swaran Singh, who said in a statement that the British decision created a new situation in which it was incumbent on the members of the study group to reconsider the utility of the group meeting at all. Expressing India’s regret over the British decision even before the study group had met, Mr. Swaran Singh, however, said if Britain was willing not to make any supply of arms to South Africa till the report of the study group had been considered by the Commonwealth Governments “we would be willing to reconsider our attitude.” Diplomatic observers see in the latest warning India’s desire not to take any precipitate action. India wants every aspect of the issue, particularly the interest of African countries, to be considered. These observers, however, feel that if Britain does not show any flexibility in its attitude, the study group would not only become futile, but certain other consequences would follow. India had on Monday warned Britain that any British supply of arms to South Africa before the study group completed its work could have serious implications for the very existence of the Commonwealth.

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