Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th December 2000.

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Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green 12:00 am, 12th December 2000

What assessment he has made of the Indian Government's ceasefire in Kashmir. [141974]

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Labour, Neath

While visiting India, I welcomed the Indian Government's ceasefire in Kashmir during Ramadan and called on militants and those supporting them to respond positively. I have also welcomed Pakistan's subsequent announcement that its forces at the line of control will observe maximum restraint. We hope that those recent developments will create a climate that encourages dialogue between the Indian and Pakistani Governments.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green

I welcome my hon. Friend's positive and helpful comments about the situation in Kashmir. Can he say more about the proposed investigation by the Indian authorities into the massacre at Chattisinghpura of 36 male villagers who were executed on the eve of President Clinton's visit on 20 March this year? He will be aware that the limited inquiry by Mr. Justice Pandian revealed that the original suggestion that the atrocity was the responsibility of Kashmiri militants is now subject to considerable doubt. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital that the true facts are known and that those responsible are brought to justice if we are to continue to reduce tension in the region?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Labour, Neath

I agree with my hon. Friend that that appalling massacre of 36 Sikhs in March has not done Kashmiris or, indeed, India any credit. That is why I very much welcome the decision of the Indian Government to conduct a special inquiry into the massacre and to publish two reports. That is a good sign of transparency and will act as a check against human rights abuses, which are happening almost every day in Kashmir.

It is important that the present opportunity offered by the statements of restraint that have been made by both sides is grasped. We need to move towards a proper dialogue and a resumption of the Lahore process, which was started so courageously last year by Prime Minister Vajpayee of India, so that we can get down to proper negotiations between the two countries and Kashmiri representatives to find a new and stable future for that troubled region.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

I note the Minister's welcome for Pakistan's announcement of maximum military restraint on the conflict line, but does that announcement extend to its ceasing to be a state sponsor of terrorism in Kashmir?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Labour, Neath

No. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that point because there is still far too much evidence—certainly over the past year to 18 months since the Cargil incident, which was inspired by Pakistan—that cross-border terrorism is actively encouraged and, indeed, at times sponsored by agencies and elements closely aligned with the Pakistani authorities. It is very important that that stops. Then, we shall have a climate in which serious negotiations and dialogue can create a more hopeful situation.