HC Deb 11 April 1973 vol 854 cc1313-5
16. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further efforts have now been made to secure the trilateral settlement between India, Bangladesh and Pakistan which will enable the speedy return of prisoners of war.

Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received any requests from the Governments of India. Pakistan or Bangladesh to assist in negotiations regarding the recognition of Bangladesh by Pakistan and the return of the prisoners of war held in India.

20 Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what requests he has received asking him to mediate between India and Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Lord Balniel

Her Majesty's Government are anxious to see an early political settlement in the sub-continent that will include the repatriation of the prisoners. Our views on this are known to the three countries concerned. We have said that we are ready to help if, together, they could let us know what rôle we might play. But for the moment they wish to work for a settlement without outside involvement. I believe that this holds the best prospect of success.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that now that Bangladesh is recognised by so many countries, including our own, it would be wrong for India not to make a unilateral settlement about the situation of the prisoners of war? The only thing that is holding up a settlement is the recognition by Pakistan of the sovereignty of Bangladesh. Should not the rôle of Her Majesty's Government be to try to help Pakistan to reach an agreement recognising the sovereignty of Bangladesh?

Lord Balniel

I do not think that that is the only consideration in a very complex situation. The important thing arising from the hon. Gentleman's question is that, at Simla, India and Pakistan agreed to discuss further the repatriation of prisoners of war and civilian internees. We welcome that and the progress which has been made under the Simla agreement.

We believe that the best hope of success lies in the countries concerned getting together and themselves negotiating.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will the British Government make representations to the Government in India and suggest, following the visit of Mr. Haksar to Dacca and Dr. Kamal Hussain, the new Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, to New Delhi, that Britain looks to India to break the logjam and release the prisoners of war now held in their camps so that other benefits may follow for the sub-continent?

Lord Balniel

I do not think that it is for us to look to one country to solve the problem by itself. The problem must be solved by Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. It is not for us to point a finger at one country and tell it that it must reach a solution.

Mr. Richard

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that, so long after the war has finished, it is very wrong that prisoners of war should continue to find themselves being used as political pawns in a diplomatic game in the Indian sub-continent? We have some leverage in the area. I should have thought that the Foreign Office could be a bit firmer than it has been this afternoon.

Lord Balniel

Whether statements made in this House which the hon. and learned Gentleman regards as firm will contribute to the release of the prisoners of war is debatable. It depends on the nature of the statement made. The best prospect of achieving the return of the prisoners of war to their own country is that negotiations between the countries concerned should be allowed to continue.

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