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Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, the question that I intended to ask my noble friend the Minister is this. Why do the Government refuse to take the step of bringing a certain amount of reality into our discussions on the matter? Why do the Government refuse to say that a nuclear conflict spreading throughout the world would probably result in the end of our civilisation and, indeed, in the extinction of humanity?
The Oxford Research Group has said that that is a possibility. Therefore, does not my noble friend the Minister recognise that to refuse to pay attention to the point I raised, actually avoids and fails to respond to the present situation by removing its gravity and its reality? Is that not the view of my noble friend?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am most dismayed to feel that my noble friend does not think that the Government are dealing with the matter with what he described as a certain amount of "reality". Of course, a nuclear conflict in any part of the world would be disastrous. Indeed, when repeating the Statement, I stated that Britain is appalled by the risks and the costs to the people of the sub-Continent from a nuclear arms race. The Statement also said very clearly and unequivocally that this is not just a regional matter
My noble friend said that the Government have not done enough and that we should condemn what has happened. I should point out to him that I condemned it unequivocally when repeating the Statement. Britain was the first nuclear power to ratify the CTBT in April of this year. We also withdrew our freefall bomb in March of this year. Our ambitions were clearly stated in the election manifesto in relation to eventual nuclear disarmament through a process of verification and balanced nuclear disarmament throughout the nuclear powers.
Our position is an ambitious but practical one. I am extraordinarily dismayed that my noble friend should think that we are in any way not dealing with the matter seriously or that we have not dealt with it in a realistic manner.
Baroness Flather: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her generous words about friendship for both India and Pakistan. In view of that friendship, will the noble Baroness agree that there is a certain amount of hyping-up of the tension rather than actually trying to improve matters? Perhaps I may also take the liberty to say that I was dismayed to hear the Defence Secretary in the United States, Mr. Cohen, say that this was the same as the Bay of Pigs situation. I was in the US in 1961 and, at that time, China attacked India. It was extremely serious. I know that it was a long time ago and that perhaps the noble Baroness will not remember. However, everyone was absolutely immersed in the situation in the Bay of Pigs and no one in the international community was in the least bit interested in what was happening to India vis-a-vis China.
The Minister must accept the fact that India does not expect the international community to jump up and come to its aid if any other aggression takes place from outside--and that does not include Pakistan. Further, does the noble Baroness realise the true position of Pakistan? How could Pakistan not have followed that course of action? It needed to do so because of internal consumption. The Pakistani Government would have found it extremely difficult to cope with a situation where India had undertaken five nuclear tests while Pakistan had undertaken none. I hope that the noble Baroness will consider the internal situations and, indeed, the immediate situations in the surrounding countries and that she will try not to hype-up the situation to the extent that it has been hyped-up by the international community.
The noble Baroness referred to the friendship that the UK has for both India and Pakistan. That means that we are in a position to put forward our views to both countries, but to do so as a friend and not in a spirit of hostility. We must remember that in this country we have large communities of Pakistani-British and Indian-British people with relatives and friends in Pakistan and India who will be most concerned about the heightening of tension between the two countries. The noble Baroness should be in no doubt that that tension has undoubtedly been heightened by the events of the past two or three weeks.
I turn now to whether or not we are overstating the case. It was extremely distressing to read reports of the celebrations which took place in both India and Pakistan in honour of the exploding of their nuclear weapons. The noble Baroness mentioned the comparison that the US Defence Secretary, Mr. Cohen, made, as indeed did the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and said that it was not necessarily helpful. We are where we are today. Therefore, trying to make comparisons with where we have been during the past 10, 20 or 30 years is probably not a very helpful comparison to make.
I can tell the noble Baroness that I do remember the Bay of Pigs incident. I remember it very clearly because I was a very frightened schoolgirl when it happened. In my view, anything that we can do to help lessen the tension between India and Pakistan at present by talking to them and by getting the international fora, which I described earlier, to put forward the views of a number of different nations and, indeed, by persuading them, if we can, to have a dialogue with each other to lessen the tension in that part of the world, will be enormously important.
Lord Paul: My Lords, I, too, should like to welcome the Statement. Any nuclear test by anyone, anywhere, is an event that all peace-loving people profoundly regret. India and Pakistan may have had their policy compulsions--in some ways understandable--but nuclear testing is a defeat for peace, for compassion and for the ethic of goodwill between states and peoples.
Although I welcome the Government's approach--namely, to use diplomacy and not economic threats--can my noble friend the Minister tell me whether they will continue on that path? These situations underline the need for international co-operation and the co-ordination of diplomatic efforts. Economic threats, especially sanctions, achieve little in today's world; indeed, they alienate countries to such an extent that they often impede diplomacy. Sanctions will work only if they are universal, and where can universality be achieved in today's world? Moreover, sanctions give opportunities for various dubious business interests, especially those with shady international connections, to make sneak profits by circumventing the law. No government should encourage that. I hope the Government will make sure that it does not happen.
Will the Government sustain their efforts at multilateral diplomacy and work within the framework of the great goodwill that exists towards Britain in both India and Pakistan? That goodwill, which is almost unique in the context of history, must be nurtured. I welcome the Statement and I hope that the Government will pursue their policy of diplomacy.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his support. I remind my noble friend that the General Affairs Council of the European Union agreed on 25th May that member states should work for the deferral of consideration of IFI loans to India, and that partners should also agree to take necessary measures should India not accede to and move towards the relevant non-proliferation agreements. It is only fair to remind my noble friend of that point. As I have already indicated, we shall consult with our EU partners on any comparable measures that may have the same impact on Pakistan. Sanctions, of course, take a number of different forms. We must be clear that we are concerned that we do not start to undermine the aid effort to the poorest people in both countries. I hope that my right honourable friend's Statement made that clear. There are over 300 million desperately poor people in India who live on less than 1 US dollar a day. Cutting off aid would hurt them and not impair India's nuclear programme.
We are concerned that in both India and Pakistan the consequences of any renewed arms race may divert scarce resources from vital productive development and their efforts to reduce poverty and to improve their education provision. I can give my noble friend the assurance, at least in part, not necessarily that there will be no sanctions of any economic nature against either country, but that we shall do everything we can to sustain the diplomatic effort. We are enormously conscious of the importance of trying to sustain aid programmes which help the poorest people in those countries.
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