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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that I have made absolutely clear to noble Lords the view of Her Majesty's Government that this a bilateral matter. At the moment, all our energies are concentrated on trying to do everything possible, along with other key players in the international community, to lower the temperature.
I am sure that the noble Viscount knows that there are differences between the two countries as regards the terms on which they would wish in any sense to "internationalise"; that is, to approach other parties with a view to resolving this conflict. We would be treading on very sensitive ground were we to declare that a particular way would lead to a resolution, let alone that we know the ultimate answer. I do not think that we are in a position to do that.
While I acknowledge the comments made by the noble Viscount, I would urge him to agree that we have to be extraordinarily sensitive to the very firmly held views in both countries with regard to the best means of resolving the dispute.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I wonder if my noble friend can help me with one or two queries. What is the Secretary-General of the United Nations doing at the moment? If ever there was a situation in which the doves ought to be encouraged on both sides, it is this one. Defining the bilateral issue does not strike me as capable of taking the matter forward in any way. This is a bilateral issue with profound global implications.
The UN system, and the Security Council in particular, was designed to try to deal with this kind of situation. The Secretary-General has the power to call a meeting of the Security Council on his own initiative. I know that that power is rarely used, but are the Government urging the Secretary-General to take the initiative? Furthermore, are other members of the Security Council pushing him in that direction?
I find it difficult to believe that, were the Secretary-General to call a meeting of the Security Council, India and Pakistan would fail to turn up. We all know that in this kind of situation, buying time is in some ways the most essential move, otherwise we shall see an inevitable and inexorable drift which no one seems able to control. We have to buy some breathing space. One of the places where that might be done is in the Security Council. I hope that the Government are giving serious consideration to this proposal.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree with the wisdom expressed by my noble friend; one of the most important ways of trying to lower the temperature in this dispute is to buy time. However, I should also say to my noble friend that the way that is done has to be handled extremely carefully.
I shall make again a point that I sought to make clear to the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley. The way in which the temperature is lowered could have the potential for inflaming the dispute. That fact is that not both sides wish to have the dispute resolved through some of the international mechanisms to which my noble friend referred. That is why we have sought to use the mechanism of individuals visiting the countries concerned. I have indicated that our friends in the United States and the EU have also been trying to use their good offices in this respect.
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister is not aware that I visited Islamabad during the Easter Recess and that I had quite a long discussion with General Musharraf. During our conversation he made it plain that he was doing his utmost to crack down on those terrorists launching attacks on India.
Surely the answer lies in a political solution, as was the case in Northern Ireland. I believe that the only way in which that can be achieved is by pursuing what has just been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Richard; namely, we must try to involve the international community.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am pleased to learn that the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, had an opportunity to hold the discussion that he has described to noble Lords during the Easter Recess in Islamabad. I am sure that he, along with others in the international community, took the opportunity to urge General Musharraf to acknowledge the importance of dealing with the problems of terrorism and cross-border infiltration.
I was also interested to hear the quotation cited by the noble Lord. Yes, I believe that it does indicate that President Musharraf is trying to stem the growth of terrorism. However, the problem remains that that terrorism has not been stemmed. There are still training camps for terrorists in Pakistan-controlled territories which really must be dismantled. In essence, that was the purport of the discussions held by my right honourable friend in Islamabad.
My right honourable friend stressed three issues above all else: first, stopping support for terrorism in Kashmir; secondly, stopping cross-border infiltration; and, thirdly, dismantling terrorist training camps. I acknowledge that President Musharraf has made some efforts to do that, but those efforts will have to be concentrated and, if I may so say, they will have to be effective.
Of course I agree with the noble Lord that a political solution to this conflict is most important. The Statement has made it clear that armed conflict and war are simply not going to provide the solution that both sides so desperately need. However, the central issue is that we must listen carefully to what both sides have been telling us are what they believe to be the means of resolving the dispute. We cannot impose those means on them. Only if both sides want to use particular means, will they work. If we try to impose a resolution on one side or the other, I fear that we shall sink even deeper into the mire.
First, one of the dangers which has been repeatedly highlighted is that not only is there no dialogue between the two countries, but there is not even basic telephonic equipment such as a hotline in place between them. Neither country has a fully implemented command and control system which the other can understand. Is there not something that could be done to help both sides to establish that kind of infrastructure in order to ensure that war could not break out by accident? At the very least, we should be able to ensure that both countries are given the appropriate equipment.
Secondly, in the Statement my noble friend mentioned the helpful meetings with the leaders of local communities held by the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary. Does my noble friend agree that it would be an advantage to sponsor, as it were, a Kashmir forum in which all the different elements of the diasporathe British, the Indians and the Kashmiriscould be given an opportunity to discuss these questions? Such a forum should not be an official gathering, but rather it should bring together all the different factions so that a dialogue on Kashmir is promoted across the communities. Perhaps a solution would emerge out of that.
Such a forum may convince the two governments in India and Pakistan that, not the international community in the abstract, but the diaspora is interested in solving the problem. Such a forum may help matters.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for pointing out the difficulties as regards simply having the means for the two sides to communicate properly with each other. When a bus route was established between the two countries some two or three years ago, I remember the relief felt by many of us that some form of communication would be possible. I agree with my noble friend that the basic
I thank my noble friend for the very helpful suggestions that he made about what he described as a "Kashmir forum". Perhaps I may correct something that I said a short while ago. I referred to the "south-east Asian" community, when I should have referred to the south Asian community. I beg your Lordships' pardon for that slip of the tongue.
As regards the community in this country who are bound to follow this issue most keenly and closely, we must do everything that we can to keep them in touch with what is happening. I shall certainly take my noble friend's suggestion to my right honourable friend and put it to him as a helpful thought.
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