HC Deb 16 April 2002 vol 383 cc439-41
1. Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon)

What assessment he has made of the situation regarding cross-border terrorist incursions into India. [45516]

7. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

What recent steps he has taken to encourage the UN to supervise both sides of the line of control in Kashmir. [45522]

13. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

What initiatives Her Majesty's Government are undertaking to ensure peace in the Indian sub-continent. [45528]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)

In our view, only a political dialogue, not violence and terrorism, will bring a solution to Kashmir. Unfortunately, military mobilisations on both sides of the line of control remain high. On the communal violence in the Indian state of Gujarat, we are deeply concerned about the deaths and injuries on both sides of the religious divide. We have been in regular contact with the Government of India about that, and indeed about Kashmir. They have strongly condemned the violence in Gujarat, and have given assurances, which I welcome, that they will take action to bring to justice the perpetrators of the attack.

On Sri Lanka, the news is much happier, and I am glad to be able to report to the House that following the good offices of the Government of Norway, in which we have been participating, a ceasefire has now been declared between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam terrorist organisation. We look forward to that developing into a full-scale peace process.

Mr. Dismore

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in January, after many terrorist attacks in India, the Indian Government requested the extradition from Pakistan of 20 suspected major terrorist leaders, including Azhal Masood, the prime suspect for the December attack on the Indian Parliament, Athar Ibrahim, the main suspect for the Indian airlines IC-814 hijacking, and Dawood Ibrahim, the underworld don behind a series of bomb attacks in Mumbai? Will my right hon. Friend join the USA in pressurising Pakistan to arrest those highly dangerous individuals and either put them on trial in Pakistan or extradite them to India for trial there?

Mr. Straw

It is incumbent on all members of the United Nations, including the Governments of Pakistan and India, fully to implement the requirements of UN Security Council resolution 1373 on countering terrorism. Like the United States, we have been engaged in discussions with the Government of Pakistan about their meeting their obligations in respect of countering terrorism. We believe that they need either to bring those suspects to trial—or certainly those 15 who appear on the Interpol list—or hand them over to the Government of India.

Mr. Prentice

My right hon. Friend will know that the line of control extends for 450 miles, yet there are only 45 UN military observers—one for every 10 miles of territory. Why cannot we urge the UN to increase the number of military observers in that area, which could easily become a tinderbox leading to a third world war?

Mr. Straw

I do not think that there is any problem about urging the UN, but there is a difficulty in getting bilateral agreement to the role of observers on both sides of the line. My hon. Friend will know that observers are currently situated only on the Pakistani side of the line of control. As I have made clear, we consider that the Kashmir dispute is, in essence, a bilateral dispute, but the international community, including the United Kingdom Government, remains ready to assist in that. Looking to the future, there may well be a role for observers, under the auspices of the UN, better to enforce a proper peace.

Simon Hughes

On Sri Lanka, following the Secretary of State's welcome recognition of the major breakthrough achieved, largely through Norway but also through the good offices of many other countries, will Her Majesty's Government urge not only the Prime Minister and Government but the President of Sri Lanka to take what must be the best opportunity for peace and an end to the terrible killing that the country has had for 20 years or more? Will the Government, in the context of the Commonwealth and the region, offer all assistance, both on the constitutional agenda, so that self-governance can be achieved within acceptable terms, and on the redevelopment agenda, which will clearly be vital if the northern half of Sri Lanka is to play its full part in the economy of that country and of the region?

Mr. Straw

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is yes. I place on record our appreciation of the work that he has undertaken over many years to try to bring the sides together and the attention that he has paid to the issue of Sri Lanka.

Since we are to discuss the middle east later this afternoon, I say to the House that it is a terrible commentary on what has happened in Sri Lanka that, by any analysis, more people—60,000—have been killed in terrorist outrages and in the ensuing military action in Sri Lanka than have been killed in the middle east. I applaud the work of the new Government of Sri Lanka and the statesmanship at last being shown by the LTTE. The Government and the Commonwealth stand ready to assist in every way we can.

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North)

The Foreign Secretary will know that later this year in the state of Jammu and Kashmir there are to be local state elections. Will he take this opportunity to place on record our Government's support for the Indian Government's continuing desire to maintain the secular tradition of democracy in that country? Will he also put on notice those who, by sponsoring cross-border terrorism, would seek to destabilise the area in the run-up to those elections?

Mr. Straw

As my hon. Friend knows, I have been unequivocal in condemning all forms of terrorism, not least cross-border terrorism across the line of control. As for the prospective elections on the Indian side of the line of control, in Jammu and Kashmir, we look forward to those elections being held, but it is crucial—I believe that the Indian Government understand this—that they are held in a climate of peace and security and with proper facilities for external monitors.

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