I informed the House on 27th March—[Vol. 834, c. 31–32]—that President Bhutto had told me that he hoped to maintain and improve Pakistan's bilateral relations with the United Kingdom. This is Her Majesty's Government's wish also, although Pakistan's decision to leave the Commonwealth will inevitably involve changes and the loss by Pakistan of certain privileges.
As regards Bangladesh, we wish to develop further our present good relations with that country and I am sure the House will join me in welcoming Bangladesh into the Commonwealth.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the offer by President Bhutto to release the Indian prisoners whom Pakistan holds without necessarily claiming a quid pro quo? Will Her Majesty's Government do everything possible to assist the normalisation of relations between the two countries?
Yes, Sir. I hoped to contribute towards that objective when I was in Pakistan. I am glad to say that the emissaries of India and Pakistan will be meeting shortly and will be covering these questions.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we have arrived at an anomalous situation when Bangladesh is inside the Commonwealth and Pakistan is outside? Will he ask the Commonwealth Secretary-General to approach President Bhutto with a view to persuading him in the new circumstances to return to the Commonwealth, which would, among other things, bring great relief from anxiety to Pakistanis in this country?
We would very much like Pakistan to return to the Commonwealth and I said this to President Bhutto when I was recently in Pakistan. For the moment, however, he has made his judgment, but I hope it is not final.