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Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): May I tell the Foreign Secretary that neither in his analysis nor in his cautiously optimistic conclusions do I find anything with which to disagree? I commend him too for his sure-footedness in recent weeks in circumstances in which, as his predecessor found out, it is not difficult to become embroiled in controversy. He was right to underline to both Governments, as he did again today, the apocalyptic consequences of a nuclear exchange between them, which would notindeed, could notbe contained within their own borders. Do not those events underline the pressing urgency to bring both India and Pakistan into the nuclear non-proliferation regime and, in particular, to persuade both of them to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty?
Finally, does the Foreign Secretary understand that in recent weeks the policy of Her Majesty's Government on arms sales has, to put it mildly, seemed to lack coherence? When the crisis began to reach critical levels, why did the Government not announce an immediate suspension of arms sales both to India and to Pakistan, and seek to persuade others to do the same?
Mr. Straw: First, I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his welcome for the actions that have been taken. That is much appreciated. On such a sensitive and difficult issue, it is extremely important for any Foreign Secretary to have the support of those on his own side of the Chamber, which I hope may be forthcoming, as well as the support that has been forthcoming from the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring), the official Opposition spokesman, and from the Liberal Democrats.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about the comprehensive test ban treaty. I hope that from this terrible and potentially devastating situation we may be able to get some good. We want to encourage both sides by bilateral dialogue to seek to resolve the long-standing dispute. In the past, there have been discussions that failed in the end, as they did in Agra last year, but came quite close to agreement. We hope that the parties will agree among themselves on the appropriate forum for such bilateral discussion and, in the end, resolution of the issue.
We hope, too, that both parties will consider joining the various international treaties, which in turn have helped to make the signatories much safer from the risks of nuclear war than they were before.
On the issue of arms sales, the then Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw) in a detailed written answer of 15 March, set out that we were further restricting the sales of any sort of obvious nuclear material, or dual-use material, that could be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons and delivery systems in respect of both India and Pakistan. There was widespread approbation for that decision.
On the wider issue, the consolidated criteria that have been approved by the House, which are European Union and national criteria, contain sufficient flexibility, in our view, not to require there to be imposed a blanket arms embargo. There is every coherence in these criteria. For that reason, we have resisted such an embargo.
Mr. Piara S. Khabra (Ealing, Southall): I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, which sets out a positive and sensible approach. I have genuine concerns because my village, where I was born and educated, is only about 60 miles from the border with Pakistan.
May I ask my right hon. Friend to comment on the recent reports regarding the Kashmir international relief fund and the Regent's Park mosque, which have been collecting funds for Islamic fundamentalists, and reports that President Musharraf is unable to prevent incursions into Kashmir by fundamentalists? What are the prospects of peace between India and Pakistan?
Mr. Straw: I understand my hon. Friend's huge knowledge and experience of the area from which he comes, which is so close to the border. If any hon. Member, or anyone else, has evidence that anybody resident or in this country is raising funds for causes that are banned by the Terrorism Act 2000 or by the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Metropolitan police will be pleased to hear from them. Such evidence will be fully investigated.
As for President Musharraf's position, I said in my statement that he set out clearly in his speech of 12 January that no organisation would be allowed to indulge in terrorism in the name of Kashmir. He has taken a series of actions since then to bear down on terrorist organisations, three of which I personally proscribedbannedwhen I was Home Secretary. That proscription was endorsed by an overwhelming majority in the House.
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe): Does the Foreign Secretary agree with my constituents of Pakistani and Kashmiri origin that there will be no just and lasting final settlement in Kashmir until the people who are caught in the tragic situation there are allowed to determine their own future, and that that cannot be a matter for India and Pakistan alone?
Mr. Straw: The resolution of this dispute does lie in the hands of Pakistan and India alone. How they resolve it is another matter, and of course we hope that in seeking to resolve it they will take full account of the wishes of the people in Kashmir. One of the reasons why we have sought to encourage the Government of India to ensure that there is a climate in which free and fair elections can take place in Jammu and Kashmir is our wish to ensure the provision of a democratic outlet for people's concerns in those regions.
Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr): In this conflict, the people who are being used as table tennis balls in a game of power politics are the Kashmiri people. It is time that India and Pakistan stopped using them in that way and messing around with people's lives.
My hon. Friend is right to say that more than 70,000 people have lost their lives in this terrible conflict. Those people were members of all religionsSikhs, Hindus and Muslims. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the statesmanlike position he has taken in saying that it is the Kashmiri people who have been caught up in the conflict; but because it is a dispute between two sovereign nations, it can only be resolved through direct dialogue between those two sovereign nations.
Obviously the dispute has substantial implications for the international community, which is why we have been taking the action we have been taking. As I have said, however, it is a direct territorial dispute, and it is through direct dialogue that a resolution is possible. If the two nations seek outside intervention or conciliation of any kind, of course the international community will stand ready to offer it; but it must be a decision that they take.
Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire): May I ask a question arising from the Foreign Secretary's helpful statement? What is the Government's policy on the continued existence of terrorist training camps? What will be their approach should President Musharraf not respond positively to urgent representations made to him by the Foreign Secretary for the camps to be closed immediately?
Mr. Straw: United Nations Security Council resolution 1373 imposes clear obligations on all United Nations member states to take action in respect of terrorism in their territories. That plainly includes the operation of training camps in which terrorists are trained. We look to the Government of Pakistan to take effective action in respect of those camps, and we are monitoring the situation.
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not speculate on what action may or may not be taken ifand we do not think this will happenPresident Musharraf does not follow through the undertakings he has given.
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): While I welcome some reduction in the tensions in the area, I think my right hon. Friend will agree that we cannot walk away and ignore the situation again, or we will be brought to the brink of a nuclear war in just a few months' or years' time.
Many of my constituents are Kashmiris. Over the years, I have not heard one of them say anything other than that they want the right to determine their own future, and they want it through the United Nations resolution of 1948. Is it not time we all started to ensure that this goes back to