HC Deb 19 March 1956 vol 550 cc797-8
1. Mr. Fenner Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent meeting at Karachi of the Council of Ministers of the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

Hon. Members may already have seen from the final communiqué of the Karachi meeting the main points which were discussed and the conclusions reached. I have arranged for the full text of the communiqué to be placed in the Library.

It was generally agreed that the Council Representatives in Bangkok had done good work in the past year. Approval was given to the proposals made by the Council Representatives for the more effective conduct of their work in future. Several new and important ideas were put forward, particularly in the economic field. Some of these have been remitted to the Council Representatives for further study.

The Council also considered the report of the military advisers, and agreed that they had made progress in their planning of collective defence against aggression, as well as in developing measures for improving the efficiency of the armed forces of the member States.

The Council's general exchange of views on matters affecting the Treaty area took place against the background of recent Soviet actions in Asia. These have undeniably been among the most significant developments affecting the Treaty area since the Council last met. I do not claim that S.E.A.T.O. in itself provides or can provide the complete answer to those moves. But it does provide a measure of protection against aggression, infiltration, and subversion. At Karachi it was very clear that Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines attach great importance to their membership of S.E.A.T.O. and the habit of co-operation which is being developed. I was glad to be able to assure them that Her Majesty's Government will continue to give the Organisation their full support.

Mr. Brockway

First I should like to welcome the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his return from his long journey. I should like to ask him two questions: whether, as S.E.A.T.O. was formed originally as a defence against Communist aggression, it was not a little unwise, whatever one's view of the merits of the issue, to include Kashmir on the agenda; and, second, whether, in view of the failure of S.E.A.T.O. to win the co-operation of the major Asian nations, it would not be wise now to reconsider the whole policy of which it is an expression?

Mr. Lloyd

In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, Kashmir was not put upon the agenda at the S.E.A.T.O. meeting, and I never concealed my own view that it was not appropriate to discuss the merits of the Kashmir dispute at the S.E.A.T.O. meeting. No attempt was made to discuss the merits of the dispute. All that happened was that members noted that the United Nations Resolutions remained in force and affirmed the need for an early settlement of the Kashmir question through the United Nations or by direct negotiations. I really do not see how anyone could object to that expression of opinion.

With regard to the second part, as I said in my statement, I do not suggest that S.E.A.T.O. affords a complete answer to the dangers in that area, but I still think that it has a useful part to play.