HC Deb 03 May 1995 vol 259 cc310-1
6. Mr. Cox

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will support efforts by the European Union to encourage Pakistan and India to hold direct talks on Kashmir; and if he will make a statement. [20418]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry)

We have taken a leading role in encouraging India and Pakistan to resolve their problems over Kashmir by bilateral dialogue, as provided for under the 1972 Simla agreement. Our line is closely reflected in the position taken by the European Union.

Mr. Cox

I note and welcome that reply, but what discussions have the Minister and our European partners had with the. Indian Government in an effort to stop the continuing abuses of human rights by Indian security forces in occupied Kashmir? If the Indian Government should attempt to hold elections in that area this year, what criteria would the Minister expect to be observed to ensure that the elections were really free and fair and that the result represented the views of the people of Kashmir?

Mr. Baldry

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have repeatedly made it clear that human rights abuses in Kashmir have to stop, as does any support for armed incursions into Kashmir, and those responsible know to whom we are speaking. We have consistently encouraged India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through talks together. I am glad that yesterday India and Pakistan agreed to resume talks on Kashmir, which is good news. The President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India met and agreed that outstanding problems had to be resolved through peaceful means and that there was no insurmountable barrier to resuming talks, which is very good news.

Mr. Jessel

Before any such talks can make sensible progress, is it not essential that military terrorism should cease? As we used to say of Northern Ireland, one cannot successfully negotiate under the shadow of the bomb and the bullet. Should not Pakistan be discouraged from training and sending so many young men to a useless death?

Mr. Baldry

As I have made clear on many occasions, for there to be progress on Kashmir there has to be an improvement in human rights in Kashmir, a genuine political process in Kashmir and the clear cessation of external support for violence in Kashmir. Above all, there must he a dialogue between India and Pakistan. It is good news that that dialogue at last seems to be starting.

Mr. Rooker

Notwithstanding the announcement that the Minister made about the discussions yesterday, may I ask him to redouble the British Government's efforts on the issue? It is not a problem of two faraway countries: it affects the very heart of communities in this country. When people from that divided part of the world hear about the constant repression of their families and more distant relatives, it makes for bad community relations in this country. It puts pressure on people, who take a more militant approach because of the diplomats' failure to solve the problem by peaceful means. There is a continuing danger that the matter will continue to fester within our communities in this country unless we redouble our efforts to bring about a peaceful solution.

Mr. Baldry

The hon. Gentleman and the House will he reassured to know that Ministers spare no opportunity to encourage both sides to resolve their differences through bilateral negotiations. The point that the hon. Gentleman makes—that many people in this country have an interest in what happens in Kashmir—is well understood. That is why we wish to see progress made on Kashmir. The only way in which long-standing progress can be made on Kashmir is if the people of India and Pakistan talk and resolve the matter together.

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