HC Deb 01 March 1973 vol 851 cc1702-3
Q4. Mr. Kaufman

asked the Prime Minister whether he will seek to pay an official visit to Pakistan.

Mr. R. Carr

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to visit Pakistan.

Mr. Kaufman

When the Government communicate with the President of Pakistan will they assure him, in the name of humanity, of the strong feeling in this country that the 94,000 Pakistani prisoners of war being held by India should be unconditionally and immediately released? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that that point of view will also be put forcefully to the Indian Government?

Mr. Carr

I can certainly assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that the Government, like everyone in the House, want to see these prisoners of war repatriated as soon as possible. I do not want to say anything today which might make that more difficult.

Mr. Wilkinson

As the spirit of Simla has not yet extended to the repatriation of prisoners of war, may I ask my right hon. Friend to suggest a trilateral meeting in London, particularly since the consent of Bangladesh is regarded by the Indians as a sine qua non for the release of the prisoners?

Mr. Carr

I shall certainly draw my hon. Friend's suggestion to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. I would not wish to pre-judge his view. In situations like this, calling conferences outside the area concerned sometimes hardens attitudes rather than softens them.

Mr. Stonehouse

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Prime Minister to tell Mr. Bhutto that he should accept the realities of the situation and recognise Bangladesh, so that the Pakistani soldiers now being detained in India could be returned? Is he further aware that, in addition, hundreds of thousands of Bangalees who are kept in Pakistan would be allowed to return home? That would be the solution.

Mr. Carr

This is clearly a complex and controversial problem. I want to avoid saying anything which might make the repatriation of prisoners more difficult.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Although this is a complicated problem, does not my right hon. Friend accept that if the prisoners are retained for much longer relations between India and Pakistan may be poisoned for a generation? Does he agree that the Government should take advantage of the good will we have with both countries to try to promote discussions between them?

Mr. Carr

I assure my hon. Friend that we shall use any good relations we have with both these countries which might help them to a settlement. It is very much in the interests of the Indian subcontinent, as well as of the poor people directly involved, that this problem should be solved.