HC Deb 14 July 1998 vol 316 cc176-7
5. Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)

If he will make a statement on relations with India and Pakistan following their recent decision to place a moratorium on future nuclear tests. [48705]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook)

It is important that both countries now respond to the requirements of the international community, particularly to refrain from developing nuclear weapon systems and to adhere to the global non-proliferation regime without conditions. As a step towards meeting those requirements, we welcome the moratoriums on nuclear testing.

As a friend of both countries, Britain wants to see a solution that will promote stability and reduce tension in the sub-continent. Last week, we hosted a meeting of experts from a dozen countries to consider how we could all help India and Pakistan to promote confidence-building measures and to join arms control agreements such as the comprehensive test ban treaty.

Sir Teddy Taylor

India and Pakistan are our friends and allies. Every one of us should have a feeling of guilt that we left those countries with unresolved nightmares, of which Kashmir is only one. Will the Foreign Secretary make it abundantly clear that he will use all his power to seek to resolve these nations' problems with the international community, especially in view of the fact that they are now making a positive response by placing an embargo on future tests? Will Britain do its best?

Mr. Cook

I welcome what the hon. Gentleman says today about our efforts to try to resolve the problem of Kashmir, although I would have welcomed such sentiments when this matter was discussed last November following the remarks that I am alleged to have made on Kashmir. The international committee attaches the highest importance to trying to resolve the source of the tensions between India and Pakistan. This is primarily a matter for the parties in the first instance, and they must try to find a solution that is acceptable to all the people of Kashmir—whether Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. However, if they require the support of the international community, I am sure that it will be forthcoming.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

Will my right hon. Friend take every opportunity to continue to express to his opposite numbers in Pakistan and in India the real concerns felt by our constituents when those countries carried out nuclear tests? Will he reinforce the message that, rather than increase their country's security, they led to a much less stable south-east Asia, and lowered the standing of both countries within the international community?

Mr. Cook

Any observer of the situation involving the two countries is bound to conclude that the tests have increased tension rather than increased security. The tragedy is that the tests have given fresh impetus to the voice of extremism, and not to the voice of moderation.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

Does the Foreign Secretary consider it a matter of concern that the Foreign Office did not seem to have any intelligence or forewarning of the recent Indian nuclear tests?

Mr. Cook

It is a matter of concern, not only to us, but to our partners. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot say anything further on intelligence matters.

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