HC Deb 30 June 1949 vol 466 cc1491-3
15. Mr. M. Philips Price

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether in view of the increasingly hostile attitude of the Afghan Government over the North-West Frontier Province, he will take steps to assure Pakistan that she can count on our full support in the event of armed aggression.

The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have seen with regret the disagreements which there have been between the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan about the status of the territories on the North West Frontier. It is His Majesty's Government's view that Pakistan is in international law the inheritor of the rights and duties of the old Government of India and of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom in these territories and that the Durand Line is the international frontier.

Both now and at all times His Majesty's Government are fully conscious of their duty in the light of Pakistan's position as a fellow-member both of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations and they have, of course, been in continuous consultation with the Government of Pakistan. They are con- vinced—and are confident that this view is shared by the Government of Pakistan—that there is no outstanding question between Pakistan and Afghanistan which cannot be settled by peaceful means on the basis of the legal position which I have stated. They are also confident that there could be no question of armed aggression by Afghanistan, who is a fellow-member of the United Nations.

Mr. Philips Price

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that his answer will give satisfaction to a wide circle in the Commonwealth, particularly to those who know the situation on the North-West Frontier?

Mr. Gammans

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he has made it clear to Pakistan that, in the unfortunate event of an aggression actually taking place, it can fully rely upon this country's help?

Mr. Noel-Baker

The hon. Member, like the rest of the House, knows what has been the value of the Commonwealth in the past as a bastion against aggression, but it does not work by pledges given in advance about hypothetical situations. They are not asked for, and not given.

Mr. Thomas Reid

Does Pakistan pay the subsidies which the British Government used to pay?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, they pay exactly the same subsidies.

Mr. Blackburn

Without necessarily disagreeing with what the Minister has said, may I ask whether it is not plain that all members of the British Commonwealth and Empire have an absolute guarantee of territorial integrity simply because they are members of it.

Mr. Noel-Baker

I had better not add to what I said.

Mr. Gallacher

Will the Minister be very chary about these incitements to war, in view of the fact that it is not the Minister or his questioners who will have to do the fighting but the young lads of this country?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I hope that the hon. Member will do all he can to deal with all those who incite to war, either to civil war or to international war. I must add that it is in the overwhelming interest of those Governments to settle by peaceful means any dispute that they have. In view of what is happening in Asia it must be abundantly plain that that is true. I am sure that it is the conviction and the policy of the Pakistan Government.