HC Deb 01 December 1964 vol 703 cc219-20
16. Mr. George Jeger

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what undertakings and guarantees were given by the Indian Government as to the use of armaments to the value of £13 million promised in the recent agreement; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Bottomley

We have not promised armaments to the value of £13 million in any recent agreement. I assume my hon. Friend is thinking of the figure of £13.66 million which has been quoted as the total foreign exchange which the Indian Government may require to complete the reconstruction of the Mazagon Dockyard in Bombay and the construction there of three Leander-class frigates. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the British Government have undertaken to make available a loan of £4.7 million over the next four years to help finance this project.

We recognise that the Indian Navy has a requirement to replace a number of ageing ships in her fleet. No specific undertakings or guarantees have been given by the Indian Government as to the use they will make of these frigates.

Mr. Jeger

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this agreement, the Press report on which is rather obscure, has caused considerable disquiet to India's neighbours, in particular to Pakistan? Will he give an undertaking that all questions of Commonwealth defence in future should require prior consultation with the neighbouring Commonwealth countries concerned?

Mr. Bottomley

The Pakistan Government are aware of the reasons why this loan was made.

Mr. Goodhew

Is the right hon Gentleman aware that it is a rather strange position in which the Government are now prepared to give arms to a country in the Commonwealth which is not prepared to stand by any Commonwealth defence agreement and yet deny arms to South Africa which is prepared to stand by its agreements? Is lie not also aware that the concern expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. George Jeger) is felt very strongly in Pakistan, especially in view of the fact that India is one of the countries—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."]—I am asking a question—India is a country which has used force for the settlement of international disputes? This is a matter of considerable moment to its neighbours?

Mr. Bottomley

Unlike the party opposite, we shall always put Commonwealth interests first.

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