HC Deb 11 January 1989 vol 144 cc831-3
7. Mr. Janner

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on relations between the United Kingdom and India.

Mr. Eggar

Relations between the United Kingdom and India are close. We continue, with the Indian Government, to look for ways to improve the relationship still further.

Mr. Janner

Is the Minister aware that when I visited India during the Christmas recess I was pleased to find that relations between Britain and India were very much better than they have been in recent years? Will he please pay a tribute to the British high commissioner in Delhi and his staff for the patient work that they are doing, and will he continue to be aware that a number of very fragile issues need watching if the position is to continue and indeed. improve further?

Mr. Eggar

I am very pleased indeed to hear what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, and I shall of course ensure that his comments are passed on to our high commissioner in Delhi. I should also like to pay tribute to the work of the present Indian high commissioner here in London—the deputy high commissioner who took responsibility when Dr. Alexander returned home after a distinguished period as Indian high commissioner in London.

Mr. Jessel

Are not the relations between Britain and India of great importance as the Commonwealth link, in that the traditional ties of history, language and law can act as a bridge between Europe and Asia? Does my hon. Friend accept that a modern India wants close relations with Britain as a whole and with the Conservative Government and that any idea of a special link with the Labour party is 40 years out of date?

Mr. Eggar

I agree with my hon. Friend about the close ties between the two countries. I would not want to create any kind of a divide across the Chamber on the importance of the relationship between India and the United Kingdom, under whatever Government.

Mr. Madden

Does the Minister understand that the introduction of DNA testing as a formal part of entry clearance procedures in India or elsewhere on the Indian sub-continent, whereby the applicant would be charged several hundred pounds, is wholly unacceptable? Will he look at the terms of early-day motion 249 where he will see the expressions of concern about such a procedure, and will he undertake urgent discussions with Home Office colleagues to ensure that their secret plan is scrapped and that there is no introduction of charges to applicants or sponsors for DNA testing?

Mr. Eggar

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that DNA testing applies mainly to people from Bangladesh and Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, to people who wish to come to this country from India, because of the difference in the period of time that has elapsed since the main amount of immigration from India compared with the other two countries in the sub-continent. I shall of course have discussions with my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Home Office about DNA testing. The hon. Gentleman well knows that the matter is under consideration.

Mr. Dicks

Have the British Government made any representations to this evil Indian Government about their persecution of the Sikhs in the Punjab? If not, why not?

Mr. Eggar

For my hon. Friend to put the question in that way is extremely unhelpful and it is inappropriate in the House. My hon. Friend is well aware of the Government's position on this matter. It was fully explained to him in an Adjournment debate before Christmas.

Mr. Wall

Will the Minister have early discussions with the Indian Government about a time scale for the withdrawal of the Indian peace-keeping force from Sri Lanka? In view of the Indian Government's close interest in the island of Sri Lanka, will the Minister also ask the Indian Government when they feel that conditions in Sri Lanka will return to normal so that business people and tourists can go there and peacefully carry out their activities, with this Government no longer carrying the odium of threatening to send refugees back to that country—including sending Viraj Mendis, the refugee, back to his death?

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman should remember that Indian troops are in Sri Lanka at the request of the Sri Lankan Government. The newly elected President of Sri Lanka has recently asked for a reduction in the number of troops from India, and I understand that that is happening.