|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, that is a different matter. I am not surprised that the Minister does not accept any of my amendments this time, although I was disappointed when he talked about the fact that I used the word "contumacious" only because I thought that at long last he was going to accept something that I said and include the word somewhere. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Together with the rest of the international community, we remain deeply concerned about Pakistani and Indian military mobilisation. The prospect of military conflict between two nuclear states is very disturbing. The risk of war between India and Pakistan is very real, but it is not inevitable. If they choose to, the parties can avoid conflict.
This is a bilateral dispute, but one in which the whole international community has an interest. We are friends with both sides. We are working with both sides to find ways of lowering the tension. We still hope
We do not believe that either side wants war. But we know from history that parties can sometimes end up in conflict no matter how much they do not wish or seek it. So we are urging both sides to realise that whatever their legitimate grievances, war cannot make the situation better. War is not the answer. Once wars start, they tend not to follow any plan. They are not easily controlled.
We are playing our part, therefore, in a concerted international effort to lower the tension between the two countries. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has spoken personally in the past few days to President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee, as have President Bush and President Putin. We are in constant contact at the highest level with our United States, European Union, G8 and other partners. Several leaders have visited or are planning to visit the region, including EU Commissioner Patten last week, US Deputy Secretary of State Armitage next week, and, we hope, soon the EU High Representative Solana.
The international community is united in urging an end to Pakistani support for terrorism, on the need for de-escalation on both sides and for a resumption of dialogue. As part of that international effort, the Foreign Secretary returned this morning from two days of talks in Islamabad and New Delhi. During his trip, the Foreign Secretary made plain to both sides the huge human cost of any war and the steps that the international community looks to them to take to defuse the current crisis and to resolve their differences by peaceful means. We will continue to do everything we can to help the parties prevent conflict.
On Tuesday, the Foreign Secretary had a constructive and forthright meeting with President Musharraf, which lasted for 75 minutes. He explained the importance of the entire international community, including Pakistan, clamping down on terrorism, including cross-border terrorism. As a result of the Foreign Secretary's visit, the international community and Pakistan understand each other better.
The United Kingdom and the rest of the international community look to President Musharraf to ensure that the undertakings that he has given, particularly in his speech of 12th January, are fully followed through. It is now actions, not words, that will resolve the dispute. The Foreign Secretary delivered a frank message: President Musharraf must stop support for terrorism in Kashmir, including bringing an end to cross-border infiltration and taking action to dismantle training camps in Pakistani-controlled territory.
Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary met Indian Home Affairs Minister Advani, Defence Minister Fernandes, Foreign Minister Singh and Prime Minister Vajpayee. The discussions were thorough. The Foreign Secretary stressed that war was not inevitable and that persistent diplomacy had to continue. He reiterated what he said to President Musharraf in Islamabad, that the United
Throughout all of this, we are, of course, monitoring risk to British nationals in the region very closely. Our ultimate responsibility is to ensure their safety and security. We also have to consider the safety of our diplomats and their families. We are keeping our travel advice under close review. If the situation requires it, we have in place contingency arrangements. As your Lordships are aware, we have already withdrawn non-essential staff from Pakistan in response to the separate threat to British interests there from terrorists. In all this, we are of course mindful of the difficult balance we have to strike between providing the levels of service expected of us and our duty of care to our staff. I will, of course, ensure that your Lordships are kept updated as the situation develops.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for making the Statement today. It is important that we should know the Government's views on the situation before your Lordships' House goes into recess.
We fully share the concerns of Ministers about what is happening, and we recognise that the danger of conflict is acute and was made more acute by incidents this morning, including terrorist infiltration and the murder of Indian policemen. We also see it as, in a broader sense, a tragedy that two great nations, both of which are burdened with enormous poverty, should put their energies into enmity with each other, rather than into helping each other and raising living standards.
There is, of course, nothing new about many aspects of the situation; there have been three wars between the two states since independence. However, there are two new, grim features that we must recognise. First, following the horrific events of 11th September, Pakistan is at the heart of the global terrorist labyrinth. Indeed, it could be seen as the birthplace of the dreadful Taliban, with all their destructive doctrines and activities. Secondly, both countries have nuclear weapons. That means that the dispute over Kashmir is not a distant dispute that we can put at the back of our mind but a central issue of global stability that directly affects the security of our own country.
What can we do? Given Britain's original actions and responsibilitiesI am speaking about the independence period over 50 years agowe are not really in a position to sermonise. I am sure that all of us, including the Foreign Secretary and the Minister here, recognise that it is essential to maintain a balance
There are two positive points. The first is that we have excellent and friendly relations with both nations; we ought to be able to build on those. Secondly, although we cannotas the Foreign Secretary saidact as go-between in any sense, we have considerable experience of living and surviving in a situation of nuclear tension, as we did in the Cold War. Throughout that period, we sought to build up an infrastructure of dialogue, safety valves and other means of communication that underpinned the structure of mutual deterrence, which seemed to work at that time.
My questions to the Minister follow from what I have just said. India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, and that fact cannot be undone. What steps are we taking to help them to develop arrangements for contact and dialogue and an infrastructure to see that they do not find themselves pushedeven by accidentfrom tactical nuclear weapons into the ghastly destruction of a nuclear war? What steps are we taking to embrace India and Pakistan realistically into the non-proliferation system? We must cease pretending that they are not involved. That will lead us nowhere. What steps are we taking to help lay the foundations of some kind of peace process architecture, something of which we have some experience nearer home?
Those are my questions to the Minister, but I reiterate the fact that we fully share her concerns and those of other Ministers. Like her, we want to see a peace system triumph over the horrific threats and dangers about which we have heard this week.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, on these Benches, we welcome the Statement and the effort that the Foreign Secretary has put in to reduce the tension in an extremely dangerous and fraught situation. We also welcome the extent to which the Foreign Secretary has stressed that he is in Pakistan and India on behalf of the international community, the European Union, the G8 and the other major countries properly concerned with the dispute. We ought to mention the constructive contribution that the Russian Government are making to attempts to alleviate the tension between the two countries.
We recognise how dangerous the situation is. It has implications for this country, too. We have substantial communities of Kashmiri origin, as well as substantial Pakistani and IndianHindu and Muslimcommunities. On the whole, those communities get on well, but we must be conscious that, in the event of fighting breaking out in Kashmir, there might be tensions in this country. What attention have the Government given to that question?
There is also the question of the British nationals. There are British nationals in the region whose grandparents come from the region, and that makes it particularly difficult to look after the interests of British nationals there. Do the Government have any further information about the threat to British nationals, particularly those in Pakistan?
As the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said, we are conscious that the situation is caught up with the global war on terrorism; that the Pakistani intelligence services learnt through the war against the Soviet-sponsored regime in Afghanistan how to train militants from within and outside the country; and that those militants have moved on to cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. I therefore found it odd last week when the United States produced its list of states sponsoring terrorism that the Pakistani intelligence services were not on the list.
I again want to ask the Minister about arms sales and supplies to the two participants. In the event of war, the question of Britain supplying spares for the various weapons we have sold to those countriesin particular to Indiawill arise. Have the Government anything to add on that matter? We in this country are most conscious that the Kashmir dispute prevents good relations between two countries, which have much shared history and culture. It stokes the fires of Hindu nationalism in India, when we all value India's tradition as a secular democracy with a substantial Muslim minority. It increases the influence of fundamentalist Muslims in Pakistan and makes it more difficult for Pakistan to move back towards democratic rule.
Finally, what is the international community planning to do to push for a longer-term resolution of the Kashmir dispute either on the basis of autonomy and shared sovereignty or other forms of negotiation between those two states?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Howell of Guildford and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for their comments about the Statement. They both understand that this is an unfolding situation and that of necessity, as each day dawns, the situation can change. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, indicted, there was a further deplorable incident this morning. We must therefore continue to monitor the situation closely in terms of several issues raised by both noble Lords.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that both nations have a grave responsibility in avoiding the possibility of a terrible conflict in the region. He was right to draw our attention to the new features of international terrorism, which is why my right honourable friend made a forceful statement to President Musharraf when he was in Islamabad. Our concerns are heightened all the more because of the nuclear capability of both countries.
I recognise that newspapers in New Delhi, as well as in other parts of the world, carry headlines which may not be accurate or helpful. In answer to those who comment that the New Delhi newspapers report that a particular country is backed by the United Kingdom, I would say that the United Kingdom backs peace. I hope that that message has been given most forcefully in New Delhi and Islamabad. The United Kingdom will never back terrorism. Indeed, we made a point of applauding the help given by President Musharraf to the coalition following the dreadful events of September 11th.
The noble Lord asked what further steps we can take to help India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, they have little means of direct communication. They do not have the means to conduct the kind of conversations which we believe to be necessary in trying to resolve the issue. Therefore, together with others in the international community, we are trying to assist such a dialogue. It is only through dialogue that the issue can be properly resolved.
As I indicated in the Statement, my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are in almost daily communication with leaders all around the world; with the EU, the United States and the G8. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, about the important role of our friends in Russia in trying to gain a clearer understanding.
We have made it clear that we in the United Kingdom will do everything we can to try to further that end, but it must be furthered by consent in both countries. The noble Lord was kind and generous in making it clear that he did not believe that we had been lecturing or had tried to dictate what should happen next. That is the last thing we need to do in the circumstances. We have put ourselves forwardas have others detailed in the Statement, including the Americans, our friends in the EU and soon, we hope, Mr Solanaas those who will continue to try to persuade both countries to lower the temperature in this difficult position.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, made the extraordinarily important point about our contacts within the south-east Asian community in this country. The recent rise in tension between India and Pakistan is of particular concern to those communities in the United Kingdom. We are committed to keeping in close touch with the communities concerned. Yesterday, the Home Secretary met leaders from each of the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities and the Foreign Secretary will be doing so today in a meeting with community leaders when he will apprise them of his impressions from his recent visits. We therefore hope that with such outreach into those communities we will clearly demonstrate not only the importance
The position of British nationals, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, is under constant review. It may change even today. I was able to give your Lordships the position as it stood when I came into the Chamber, but I am greatly aware that as the situation develops so may our advice to our nationals in the area. It may be that different advice will be given while your Lordships' House is in Recess.
The noble Lord also asked about arms sales. There has been no change of policy since my noble friend Lord Sainsbury answered a Question on the issue posed by the Liberal Democrat Benches earlier this week. There is no decision to impose an arms embargo on India or Pakistan, but I remind all noble Lords that the consolidated criteria used include a specific reference to the preservation of regional peace, security and stability. Those absolutely clear criteria are used in trying to decide any export licences, but I also remind your Lordships that no export licences are being considered in relation to some of the bigger items which have been in recent news headlines; for instance, Hawk or other aircraft. As I stand at the Dispatch Box, no licence requests have been made.
Both noble Lords rightly expressed concern for what happens in the longer term. We must now do everything in the power of the international community to try to lower the temperature between the two countries to ensure that, through dialogue rather than armed conflict, they resolve what both noble Lords have acknowledged has been a long and bitter dispute. The United Kingdom stands ready to do everything it can to that end.
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on making it unequivocally clear that this is a bilateral matter. Is the Minister aware that one of the conflict-exacerbating factors is the confusion caused by the 1947 UN resolution which gave a right of self-determination to the people of the valley? Will she consider using her good offices to ensure that all parties to the conflict are left in no doubt that this is a bilateral issue, including possibly returning to New York to determine what mechanism can be used either to scratch the original UN resolution or to draft a new one to reflect that sentiment?
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page