HC Deb 30 March 1994 vol 240 cc911-2
1. Ms Lynne

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Indian Government to ensure that Amnesty International is given every facility to monitor the situation in Indian-held Kashmir.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)

The Indian Government have recently allowed visits to Kashmir by various independent organisations and groups. We did much to promote this. We shall continue to encourage the Indian Government to allow a visit to Kashmir by Amnesty International.

Ms Lynne

Do the Minister and the Secretary of State agree that although Amnesty International's visit to India was welcome and shows much more openness by the Indian Government, they would have' shown their commitment to human rights a little more had they allowed free access to Indian-held Kashmir and allowed the prisoners of conscience—the political viziers of Kashmir—to be released? Will the Minister continue to press the Indian Government about that?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As the hon. Lady said, there was a visit to Bombay and Delhi by Amnesty International. I understand that the Indian Government have agreed to further visits to different parts of India on a case-by-case basis. I must point out that other human rights groups have visited India. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross has a group of people in Kashmir at this moment, and last August the International Commission of Jurists visited India. The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) has also just been to that area.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

While recognising the significant human rights abuses reported by the Indian authorities, their troops and others in Kashmir, may I ask whether my hon. Friend agrees that it is important to recognise that, in the long term, the Kashmiri problem will be properly solved only if the Kashmiri people are given an opportunity of self-determination, as originally laid down in the UN agreement on that matter? Although Kashmir may not be a sovereign state, it should at least have: an opportunity to govern its own affairs.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The important point is that bilateral discussions between India and Pakistan must take place to resolve that problem. We have always recognised that and advocated that there must be a political process and respect for human rights in Kashmir, and a cessation of outside interference in the process.

Mr. Madden

What pressure are Her Majesty's Government putting on the Indian Government to enable the Indian Human Rights Commission to investigate alleged gross human rights violations by Indian security forces?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Discussions about Kashmir took place between Mr. Narasimha Rao when he visited this country and my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. I understand that in 1993, four Indian human rights groups visited Kashmir: the Committee for Initiatives on Kashmir; the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre; Citizens for Democracy; and the People's Union for Civil Liberties. All those Indian human rights organisations have been in the area during the past 12 months.

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