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Tuesday, 8 March 1966

Mr HAROLD HOLT (Higgins) (Prime Minister) . - I move -

That this House records sincere regret at the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, Prime Minister of India, places on record its appreciation of his high ideals, his service to the country, his dedication to the cause of international peace, and the development of harmonious relations wilh Pakistan, expresses to the people of India its profound regret at the loss they have suffered, and tenders its deep sympathy to his widow and family.

Since the Parliament last met the death occurred suddenly, as all honorable members will know, of this Commonwealth leader for whom we all had great respect. The Prime Minister of India, Mr. Shastri, had devoted his life to the welfare and advancement of his country, and his death took place while he was actually actively engaged on a mission of great significance for his country. Indeed, he died within a few hours of the signing of the Tashkent Declaration, an agreement negotiated so skilfully by him, and designed to. ease the tension existing between, his country and Pakistan. .

Lal Bahadur Shastri had long and intimate experience in Indian politics and government. He began his political career as a very young man and played an important role in a succession of Indian cabinets. He was one of the most valued colleagues of his former distinguished leader, Mr. Nehru, and he was among those to whom Mr. Nehru turned when failing health made it necessary for him to share the burdens of office. His contemporaries regarded Lal Bahadur Shastri as something of a genius in. striking balances, in handling difficult situations, and in achieving successful compromises serving the purposes he had in view. Mr. Nehru has described him as a man of the highest integrity with devotion to high ideals. This seemed to shine out from the man, even to those of us who only knew of him at a distance. As we read about him we felt the. inner strength and the spirituality and force of character in this remarkable man.

Hisextensive political experience and his personal qualities stood him in good stead when he was elected unanimously to succeed Mr. Nehru in 1964. He took office at a difficult time for India, with all its manifold pressing problems, both internally and externally. However, he quickly established himself as a leader in the eyes of his people. He proved to be persuasive, but with an inner firmness and strength of purpose - a man who had humility of manner but an inward strength which carried him to leadership and sustained him there.

He served his country with distinction. He won respect for himself and his country around the world. The account and pictures of his funeral rites brought home vividly to us, remote from the scene in Australia though we were, how deeply his people felt his passing. They revealed convincingly the depth of his people's grief. We join with the people of India in mourning the loss of a notable leader and statesman and we extend our sympathies to his sorrowing family.

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