HC Deb 30 June 1965 vol 715 cc622-4
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement.

I am happy to inform the House that the Indian and Pakistan Governments have announced the signature of an agreement for a cease-fire and the restoration of the status quo in the Rann of Kutch as at 1st January, 1965, and on the arrangements for the determination and demarcation of the border in that area.

In implementation of the agreement arrangements have been made, pending the final determination and demarcation of the border, for police patrolling by both sides in the Rann of Kutch area. These arrangements will help to avoid any risk of further clashes occurring in the area after troops on both sides have withdrawn.

I am glad to say that both President Ayub and Mr. Shastri made it clear to me that, when the agreement was completed, they would at once instruct their troops to withdraw from their present advanced positions along the Indo-Pakistan border in the confidence that this would also contribute to the reduction of the present tension between the two countries.

The whole House, will, I am sure, wish to welcome this settlement and I would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the wisdom and statesmanship of President Ayub and Mr. Shastri.

I hope that this may prove to be the first step towards a general improvement in relations between India and Pakistan, in whose welfare and peaceful progress all of us in Britain have so close and abiding an interest.

Mr. Sandys

May I join with the Prime Minister in welcoming the settlement of this unfortunate dispute between two countries, both of which are our friends? While the main credit must, of course, go to the leaders of India and Pakistan, may I ask the Prime Minister to convey to our High Commissioners in Delhi and Rawalpindi our appreciation of the valuable part which they played in helping to bring about negotiations?

The Prime Minister

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure that the whole House will realise the tremendous difficulties that the two Commonwealth statesmen concerned faced and, therefore, how statesmanlike was their decision in coming to this agreement. As I said on a previous occasion, however, on an interim step towards this I think that every praise is due to both the High Commissioners concerned who obtained agreement on the main elements; and it was not until last week that we were able to get nearer completion of it.

I think, also, that every tribute is due to the Ministers and officials of the Commonwealth Relations Office who have done so much to help the statesmen concerned to realise their desire for peace.

Mr. A. Henderson

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the settlement is another testimony to the great value that derives from the Commonwealth of Nations as an organisation bringing together 21 independent countries on the basis of friendship and co-operation?

The Prime Minister

I think, above all, that it is a tribute to the desire of the two statesmen concerned, whatever difficulties they had to face in their own countries, to secure an affective peace and a reduction of tension between their two countries. This is what needs to be said first. Although, naturally, this item was not on the agenda of the Commonwealth Conference, I am certain that every Commonwealth Prime Minister who was present last week earnestly hoped for this settlement.

Mr. Lubbock

May I associate my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself with the tribute which the Prime Minister has paid to the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in their statesmanlike approach to this question? May I, at the same time, ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the United Nations is to be asked to assist with the arrangements for determining the border and the cease-fire?

The Prime Minister

Agreement has to be reached, and, I think, will now be reached, on the assistance that will be needed to do the actual demarcation. As the hon. Member will know, the United Nations is involved in supervising the cease-fire arrangements in the Kashmir area. What is pleasing about this particular decision is the agreement of the two heads of Government concerned to withdraw their troops right along the frontier between India and Pakistan, where there has been a danger of increased tension in recent weeks.

Mr. Will Griffiths

Is my right hon. Friend aware that reports coming through today from India and Pakistan pay tribute to the part which he and the Government have played in this matter? Will he take this as an encouragement to persevere in his efforts, along with other Commonwealth countries, to use his good offices to solve the apparently intractable difficulties in South-East Asia?