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Queen’s Speech - Debate (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:23 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Hussain Lord Hussain Liberal Democrat 5:23 pm, 16th October 2019

My Lords, Her Majesty the Queen delivered her humble Address in your Lordships’ House on the same day as their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge began their four-day visit to Pakistan. The Pakistani nation has shown a very warm welcome to the visiting royal couple. Indeed, a royal visit shows the close relationship and level of understanding and co-operation between the two nations. I wish the royal couple all the best and hope that they enjoy every second of their trip to Pakistan. Her Majesty also spoke when the British nation is at a crossroads, with Brexit looming and uncertainty overshadowing the political and economic future of this country. I hope that this Government, which led this country into this mess, will take the nation out of this misery and uncertainty in the days to come.

This is a time when we may want to reflect on and review our foreign policy. Over the years of my political upbringing, I have witnessed war after war in one part of the world or another. I remember sitting in front of the television screen watching the mujaheddin fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan when the British Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, and the US President, Ronald Reagan, went all the way to Peshawar to show their support for the mujaheddin. Then, many years later, I watched the present war on Afghanistan, led by the US coalition, to fight the very force that it supported during the Soviet occupation. I watched nine years of the Iran/Iraq war followed by the Iraq/Kuwait war, then the US-led wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria. I wonder, which country will be next, and why? During these wars, millions of people, including our own service men and women, have been killed and many more injured. Hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless while many of them have been forced to flee their countries. Those countries have been left with devastating effects.

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a close ally of the United States, Britain had a huge role to play in these wars. If we look back and are honest with ourselves and our people, can we say what we have achieved that could not have been achieved without going to war in these countries? I would say: very little. If that is the case, is it not time to revisit our foreign policy and start playing a more effective role at the United Nations to help resolve these issues and bring justice to the world without going to war? A number of issues in this world need to be resolved. Some of them have been discussed at length in the United Nations and the UN has passed many resolutions to resolve them. However, if countries like Britain had played a more effective role, they would have been resolved a long time ago.

One of the long outstanding issues in the history of the United Nations is that of Kashmir. It is waiting to be resolved according to the United Nations resolutions of 1948 and 1949 along with many subsequent ones to bring justice to the people of the state and peace and prosperity to the whole region. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is going through the worst type of oppression. According to Amnesty International and the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Indian army is reported to have been involved in illegal detentions, torture, rape, killings and fake encounters, while there are thousands of missing persons and mass graves. Their reports clearly show that the Indian army is acting with complete impunity under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 in Kashmir. The UN Human Rights Commission, in its 2018 and 2019 reports, asked for free access to Kashmir to investigate the reports of these human rights violations. I believe that India has refused to entertain any of those requests. Kashmiris living inside the state and abroad, including roughly 1.3 million of them living in the UK, are looking to Britain for help to bring an end to their suffering and agony. What have the British Government done so far and what do they plan to do to help the UNCHR with regard to obtaining access to investigate human rights violations in Kashmir? Can the Minister tell the House what the Government are doing to facilitate a dialogue between India and Pakistan to find a long-lasting solution to the issue of Kashmir in the spirit of the UN resolutions and the UN charter that is acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir?