Pakistan and Bangladesh

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th April 1972.

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Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell 12:00 am, 24th April 1972

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement about Her Majesty's Government's relations with Pakistan and Bangladesh, respectively.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

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.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

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?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

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.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick

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?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

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.