Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1992.

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Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough 12:00 am, 5th February 1992

To ask the Secretary of State fòr Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on United Kingdom relations with India.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Our relations with India are now excellent. During my recent visit I had discussions with the President, the Prime Minister, and five other senior Cabinet Ministers. The atmosphere throughout was friendly and purposeful. Among other matters we discussed Kashmir and human rights.

We shall continue to support the Indian Government's courageous economic reform programme both bilaterally and at the IMF. The Indian Government have said that they appreciate our continued close co-operation in the fight against terrorism. We hope to complete work soon on an extradition treaty and an agreement on the confiscation of the assets of terrorists and drug traffickers.

Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough

I welcome my right hon. Friend's encouraging report of his visit to India. He will be well aware of the grave concerns of many of my constituents about reports of infringements of human rights in Kashmir and the Punjab. Will he tell the House a little more about what representations he made to the Government of India on those important matters?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I underlined, as we have done before, our deep concern about abuses of human rights by Indian security forces in Punjab and Kashmir. It is fair to say that the greatest violators of human rights across the world are terrorists, but I stressed the fact that it was important for the Government of India to be more open in dealing with the accusations. I suggested that they might allow Amnesty International to play a bigger part in investigating those accusations. At the same time, I welcomed the Indian Government's decision to hold elections in the Punjab, and I hope that all parties there will feel able to take part.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East

I welcome the Foreign Secretary's visit to India, but will the right hon. Gentleman reflect on the speech that he made in Luton at the end of last year? He unwisely criticised the Governments of both India and Pakistan in most undiplomatic terms. Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that Kashmir is an issue primarily to be decided between those two Governments? Does not he feel that unwise comments such as those that he made do not help an already difficult situation?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I did not find that any of the people to whom I talked in Delhi, either formally or informally, took that view. Our relationship with India, especially with the present Government of India, is such that we can talk about what is on our minds, and on the minds of many of our constituents, without causing offence. I shall not repeat what I said to the Government of India, but it is perfectly fair to say that it was well taken. At the same time, it is fair to point out to the Government of Pakistan, as we do, that is is not right or sensible for violence to be encouraged across frontiers.

Photo of Mr John Wheeler Mr John Wheeler , Westminster North

Will my right hon. Friend continue to build on the excellent relationship between the Government of the United Kingdom and that of India, especially on the question of the vale of Kashmir? Will he urge on the Government of India the importance of allowing independent observers and visitors into that region, and of taking up Pakistan's offer that independent observers should be stationed along the line of control, to deal with the movement of people and the problem of terrorism, as well as the human rights issue?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

It is important, as I have said, that all practicable steps be taken to prevent violence from being encouraged across the frontier. I agree with my hon. Friend's first point. I made a point of saying to the Indian Ministers whom I met that, just as they had announced elections in the Punjab, so it would be excellent if they could start a political process in Kashmir so that there would be people representing the Kashmiris with whom the Government could talk.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

In recent months I have had the opportunity to go to Kashmir by arrangement with both the Pakistani Government and the Indian Government, and I have seen the profound suffering among Kashmiris of both religions—Hindu and Muslim. Having seen the devastation in that beautiful valley that has resulted from the conflict, and having seen the impact of terrorism, which I deplore both there and here, may I say to the Secretary of State that while, of course, the matter must first be decided between India and Pakistan, no settlement can be acceptable that is not acceptable to the people of Kashmir, both Muslim and Hindu?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The right hon. Gentleman and I approach the problem from somewhat different angles, but I do not disagree with his conclusion. He is right that any settlement must be based not just on discussions between India and Pakistan, as provided for in the Simla agreement, but on the political process in Kashmir.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

Did my right hon. Friend say that there might be a new treaty of extradition with India? If so, would that not be a retrograde step, considering that, at present, all extradition arrangements within the Commonwealth are governed by reciprocal legislation?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I do not think that it would be a retrograde step. The matter has been under negotiation, off and on, for several years now, as I remember from my time at the Home Office. Such a treaty would help reassure the Government of India that, within what is possible under the laws of the United Kingdom, we are anxious to co-operate with them in dealing with terrorism.