HC Deb 25 October 1995 vol 264 cc1010-1
12. Mr. Lidington

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he intends to pay an official visit to India to discuss Kashmir. [36864]

Mr. Hanley

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary hopes to find an early opportunity to visit India. I was pleased to visit India earlier this month and discussed Kashmir and a wide range of other issues with members of the Indian Government.

Mr. Lidington

Will the Government continue to bring home to the Indian Government the concern still felt in this country about continuing reports of human rights abuses by the Indian armed forces in Kashmir'? Will they impress on the authorities in New Delhi that the best thing for all involved would be for such allegations to be investigated by impartial and independent observers and for the Indian Government to give permission for such observers to go to Kashmir?

Mr. Hanley

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. We certainly continue to be concerned about human rights in Kashmir and we have regularly raised our concerns with the Indian Government. Indeed, I did so only two weeks ago. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met the Indian Prime Minister earlier this week. We welcome the policy of openness increasingly adopted by the Indian Government. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Kashmir in early May. The International Committee of the Red Cross was recently granted permission to operate in Kashmir and began its initial work on 12 October.

Mr. Corbett

Will the Minister confirm that India has established an independent human rights commission and that it is the British Government's policy to support the Indian Government's efforts to persuade all parties in Kashmir and Jammu to take part, at the earliest possible time consistent with security, in elections?

Mr. Hanley

I can certainly confirm what the hon. Gentleman said. I can best summarise by saying that we believe that the best way forward for Kashmir involves three main steps. The first is simultaneous progress on dialogue between India and Pakistan as provided for under the 1972 Simla agreement. Without dialogue, there can be no progress. The second is improvement in human rights in Kashmir and a genuine political process there. The third is a clear cessation of external support for violence in Kashmir.

Mr. Jessel

On that question of external support for violence, is my right hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett), myself and four other Members of the House a year ago were shown in Kashmir a cache of Russian arms which must have got through from Pakistan to the militants in Kashmir and could not have come by any other route? Does he mean that?

Mr. Hanley

I have said repeatedly to those whom I have met in recent months that we urge the need for an end to any external support for militants in Kashmir. External support serves only to fuel the problem.

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