|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The United Kingdom reacted immediately to the news of the tests on 11th May. The Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my honourable friend Derek Fatchett, summoned the acting High
Lord Naseby: My Lords, your Lordships' House will be aware that until this event we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the independence of India. Those in this Chamber who have lived and worked in that great country will be extremely worried by this event. In the Statement, the Minister rightly said that there are three opportunities for Her Majesty's Government to co-ordinate a response to this outrage. Those opportunities should be seized. This House will pass judgment in about 10 days' time on whether the Government had the leadership to pull together the rest of the world to make sure that what is in effect a minority government in India should suffer to a degree for their transgressions.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, all of us who consider ourselves friends of India will share the noble Lord's worries over the difficulty created by the tests in terms of the reaction of other countries in the region; in particular, Pakistan and China. Officials have spoken to the Pakistani High Commissioner in London and have urged restraint upon him. However, as the noble Lord noted from what I said, we have these three opportunities to try our best to co-ordinate our reaction to what is happening in India. I know that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will be joining my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in trying to co-ordinate that response.
Lord Desai: My Lords, I have two questions for my noble friend. Given the fact that exercising a nuclear option was a manifesto commitment of the BJP made before the election, is there not a failure of political intelligence, let alone of technical monitoring, in that neither the United States nor the UK anticipated that this would be the first step that that government would take, bearing in mind that when they previously held office for only 13 days they had already made such preparations?
Secondly, at the meetings this weekend, may I urge my noble friend the Minister not to do anything precipitate about imposing sanctions on India, which would reverse the good economic reform record that she has maintained? We must also remember that the situation is also very fragile on that level. Indeed, we should promote trade, investment and industry and not do anything to punish India to an extent that we have not punished China for similar transgressions.
My noble friend urges us not to do anything which will destabilise the Indian economy. Her Majesty's Government are enormously aware of the difficulties that might flow from different sorts of sanctions. That is why the Government have not rushed in and imposed sanctions; why we are considering these issues very carefully; and why we wish to discuss them with our partners in Europe, in the G8 and at the United Nations.
However, Her Majesty's Government are also enormously aware of the very real poverty in India and of the difficulty that some sorts of sanctions might provoke in relation to some of the most vulnerable people in the country. All these matters have to be considered when deciding what sort of co-ordinated and united action should be taken on such issues.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, does the Minister agree that what has happened in the past few days emphasises the importance of achieving a solution to the problems in Jammu and Kashmir, which is permanent, peaceful and, so far as possible, acceptable to its inhabitants? Jammu and Kashmir has already been the cause of two wars between Pakistan and India and there is now every prospect that, if there should by any disaster be a third war, it would be a nuclear one.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, what the noble Lord says has to be true. The fragility around Kashmir is a very worrying issue. Having been in both India and Pakistan in the past few months, it is very clear to me that it is the real gritty issue in their entire relationship. However, so much else in both those countries hangs on how the issue is treated. The noble Lord's worries and concerns about the way that the situation may develop lie very much at the heart of the concerns of Her Majesty's Government; indeed, they are very much at the heart of the reason why my right honourable friend wanted to recall our High Commissioner this afternoon.
Lord Kennet: My Lords, will my noble friend not allow the Government to stop short at punishing and scolding India and insist that they look beyond and consult human reason and history and inquire from those authorities whether it is so much worse to have seven nuclear weapons powers in the world than it is to have six, as has been the case for many years now? If they were to find that this was merely an incremental change in an awful situation, would they then adopt the thought put forward very ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney; namely, that the only true answer is a reduction
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that I do not have to tell my noble friend, nor, indeed, anyone else in your Lordships' House, that it is the reduction of nuclear weapons in particular--certainly weapons of mass destruction generally--that lies at the heart of the Government's thinking on the matter. Indeed, that was a very clear commitment in the Government's election manifesto. My noble friend asked whether it would be so much worse to have seven nuclear weapons powers than to have six. My answer is yes; it would be. What we are concerned with is the reduction of nuclear powers and non-proliferation. That lies very much at the heart of our policies.
I should also tell my noble friend that there is a particular problem, as we have just been discussing, with India taking such action because of the difficulties in its relationships with China on the one hand, and, on the other, with Pakistan. These countries have difficult and, in some ways, quite fragile relationships. Since the tests were carried out earlier this week, it is very obvious that the strength of the reaction in both those countries bears out the worries that we have had about how this may destabilise that part of the world.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, the Minister mentioned that our High Commissioner in Delhi had correctly led the delegation of the other European Union nations to visit the Indian Government to make the protest. Can the noble Baroness tell the House if all the EU representatives accompanied him; what effect this representation had; and, whether the High Commissioner discovered if the Indians have any further plans to conduct these deplorable tests?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, our High Commissioner led a troika of the European Union ambassadors. So three ambassadors went to see the Indian Government to express our concern. However, they did not speak just on behalf of the troika; they spoke on behalf of all EU members. I hope that that clears up the noble Lord's point. They will have made a very strong statement to the Indian Government, expressing not only dismay but also the unequivocal opposition and condemnation of the EU on these points.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, although I support every word that my noble friend the Minister has said, does she agree that, until further progress is made on disarmament generally, the alternative will be continual crisis management of this kind and perpetual running to stay in the same place? Therefore, will the Government renew their efforts to ensure a fourth special session on disarmament at the General Assembly?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree with my noble and learned friend that further progress on disarmament is highly desirable. At present we are talking with our UN partners to try to ensure that
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|