HC Deb 21 October 1971 vol 823 cc879-80
15. Mr. Douglas-Mann

asked the Minister of State for Defence to what extent he took into account, when planning the visit of Chief of Air Staff to Pakistan from 27th to 30th September, the policy of Her Majesty's Government not to give military or other new aid to Pakistan until a political solution has been achieved to the situation in East Bengal.

Lord Balniel

This was one of several liaison visits which the Chief of the Air Staff has currently been paying to Commonwealth air forces, including the Indian Air Force. It had no bearing on the policy of Her Majesty's Government regarding the situation in East Pakistan.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Is the Minister aware that killing, looting, raping and burning of villages is continuing in East Bengal, both by the West Pakistan Army and the Razakhars—the licensed bandits whom the West Pakistan Government support? Is he aware that there are still thousands of refugees crossing the frontier into India every day, that there are nearly 10 million refugees in India and 70 million people starving in East Bengal, and that the only prospect of a return to normal conditions is for international diplomatic and economic pressure to be put on the West Pakistan Government to force the withdrawal of troops? In these circumstances, would he not agree that this visit at this time was a disastrous error—a bureaucratic mistake which should never have been contemplated?

Lord Balniel

I am aware of the tragic and serious situation in Pakistan. The visit of the Chief of Air Staff was concerned solely with professional matters of common interest to the two air forces.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is the Minister aware that Pakistan is a CENTO ally as well as a S.E.A.T.O. ally and that many of the senior officers in Pakistan's Air Force flew alongside British comrades in the Second World War? Is he further aware that this is a fact not to be forgotten, and would he agree that the close ties between the Pakistan Air Force and the Royal Air Force should be maintained?

Lord Balniel

My hon. Friend is quite correct. It is for that reason, among others, that the Chief of Air Staff has been visiting several countries during his tour.

Mr. George Thomson

Is the Minister aware that, given the present political situation in East Pakistan and the human tragedy associated with events there, a visit of this kind, however much it is intended to be a professional visit, is inevitably exploited for political ends? Will he give the House an assurance that further visits of this kind will not take place so long as the present situation persists?

Lord Balniel

I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance. The visit took place with the approval of my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.