HL Deb 29 November 1960 vol 226 cc1044-57

5.0 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the purpose of this Bill is to authorise Her Majesty's Government to take part in setting up a Fund which will make possible the development work in the Indus Basin which will arise from the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty. The proposed United Kingdom contribution to the Fund is a grant of £20,860,000. As the House will know, the Indus Waters Treaty was signed on September 9 this year in Karachi, and on the same day representatives of the International Bank and of the Governments who are to be contributors to the Fund —that is, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Pakistan, West Germany, the United States and ourselves—signed the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement. The purpose of the Fund is set out in the Paper (Cmnd. 1199) which has been laid before this House. That Paper also contains the full text of the Agreement, together with a summary of the Indus Waters Treaty.

The Indus Waters Treaty marks the conclusion of a long and difficult period of negotiation between the Governments of India and Pakistan over the division of the waters of the Indus Basin. I am aware that many noble Lords have personal knowledge and experience of these two great countries, and, indeed, of this particular problem, going back over many years. It is a particular pleasure to see my noble and right honourable friend Lord Swinton in his place here this afternoon, as it was during his time as Secretary of State that the foundations were laid for the settlement which has now been reached. May I, nevertheless, be forgiven if I set out, very briefly, the background of the present most welcome settlement?

The rivers of the Indus Basin consist of the great Indus itself and five major tributaries: the Jhelum, Chenab, Sutlej, Ravi and Beas. These rivers rise in the Himalayas and are fed mainly by the melting snows in early summer and by the rains which fall there in late summer. The total amount of this water is more than sufficient for the needs of the vast area of the Indus Basin, but nature makes it available only at those times of the year. In order to bring the water to cultivators in the Punjab, a system of irrigation canals was constructed which, during the days of British rule in India, was built up to the largest irrigation scheme in the world. A feature of this system is a number of link canals which enable the surplus water in one river system to be carried across country and to be used to make good shortages elsewhere.

In 1947, when India and Pakistan became separate and independent countries, the boundary which was drawn between them cut across this whole complicated network. Some large canals which had been designed to supply areas in Pakistan were controlled by headworks which in 1947 became Indian territory. Some of the major canals were also divided by the frontier. The two countries therefore were faced with the immense problem, not only of how to control the existing canals fairly and equitably, but also on what basis future developments could be carried out. The irrigation system has been continually developed over the years, and without some solution of the problem of how to divide the waters developments which both countries wished to carry out could not be proceeded with. The problem is one of great magnitude. The waters of the Indus Basin are essential to the prosperity and wellbeing of a population roughly equal to that of the entire United Kingdom. The vast majority of this population make their living by cultivation. The problem was, therefore, not merely one of a political nature, but one of direct and urgent importance to the lives of many millions of people— about one-tenth of the total population of India and Pakistan.

In 1951 the International Bank made a suggestion which will be, I think, an historic one. It made available its good offices to help the two Governments to arrive at a solution of the problem. The examination which the Bank's officials made led them, in 1954, to propose the basis of a settlement which involved Pakistan having the full use of the three western rivers (the Indus itself, the Jhelum and the Chenab) and the Indians the full use of the three eastern rivers (the Sutlej, the Ravi, and the Beas). Taking into account the complexity of the irrigation system already in existence and the immense schemes of development under consideration by the two Governments concerned, this division, although it sounds as straightforward as the judgment of Solomon, required an immense amount of working out and negotiation. This has now all been done, and the result is the Indus Waters Treaty.

A number of important canals which supply areas in Pakistan are at present fed by the rivers which, under the terms of the Treaty, will be reserved for the use of India. It will therefore be necessary to construct a number of new canals to enable Pakistan to replace this water from the three rivers which will be reserved for her use. In order to make the best use of the available water, large reservoirs will also be necessary to store water becoming available during the two seasons of high flow so that it can be used in the dry seasons. This involves a programme of works far beyond the ability of the Pakistan Government to finance. Accordingly, the International Bank invited certain Governments to join it in setting up a fund which would make the necessary money available. These Governments all agreed to do so, and it is they who have signed the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement.

The Fund will amount in total to about £320 million, of which £62 million will be contributed by the Government of India under the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty. The International Bank will provide some £30 million, in the form of a loan. The remainder, some £230 million, is to be provided by those Governments who have signed the Agreement, with the United States, as the House will see, making by far the largest contribution. The fund is to be administered by the International Bank, and the Agreement provides for contributions to be called for according to a schedule which the Bank have prepared. The Treaty provides for the whole programme of works to be carried out over a period of ten years, although it will be possible for this to be extended up to a maximum of a further three years should this prove necessary. The schedule of contributions from the Governments concerned at present envisages that the money they provide will be contributed over ten years, starting in the current financial year. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the maximum contribution in any one year will be of the order of £3 million, and this will be in the financial year 1964–65.

The works themselves will be carried out by the Pakistan Government, and the Agreement lays down that all goods required for the project shall be procured on the basis of international competition under arrangements satisfactory to the Bank. We can therefore hope that British industry will have a chance to play its part in this enterprise, and I am sure that it is fully alive to the opportunities thus offered.

The United Kingdom has in the past provided substantial help for the development programmes of both India and Pakistan, and will no doubt continue to do so. But this has been done mainly in the form of loans which have not required specific legislation. However, on this occasion, partly because we are providing a grant of a substantial sum of money, and partly because the Bank wishes to be assured at once that all the contributions which have been promised by Governments will be forthcoming, it has been felt appropriate to authorise United Kingdom participation in the fund by specific legislation. I am sure that we are all glad that this is so, because it gives us an opportunity to express our great pleasure and satisfaction that, after this long period of negotiation, a settlement has been reached. For, my Lords, this problem is of vital importance to two of our friends and partners in the Commonwealth. It is of vital importance to the Governments concerned, and, also, as I have said, to many millions of our fellow men and women in those two countries.

It also gives us an opportunity to express our readiness—indeed, our enthusiasm—to join in a unique example of international co-operation, together with seven other Governments, five of them our partners in the Commonwealth, and to enter into partnership with the International Bank. This great enterprise will remove a potential source of danger to the relations between India and Pakistan. In addition, the programme of development planned by the two Governments, including not only irrigation and water storage, but also the generation of electric power, will make a substantial contribution to the prosperity and welfare of the two countries, both of them very close to us in the United Kingdom. It will also make the Indus Basin irrigation system an impressive monument to the spirit of international co-operation which gave birth to the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement.

In welcoming this settlement, it is right that we should record our admiration for the work of all those who have brought it about. An agreement of this kind would not have been possible without the statesmanship and spirit of co-operation shown by both Governments concerned. A settlement would have been far more difficult but for the imagination and vision of the International Bank, and the wisdom, patience and understanding which they have shown throughout the long and complicated negotiations. I am sure that I speak for all Members of your Lordships' House—and, indeed, for everybody in this country—when I say that we rejoice that this settlement has been achieved, and are more than happy to play our part in turning it into a working reality. My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Duke of Devonshire.)

5.13 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Duke has given us such a lucid and comprehensive speech that there is little left for me or, I think, for anyone in this House to say. Nevertheless, it would be wrong on this, as he said, historic occasion not to make it perfectly clear that in every part of this House we are in full support of the generous action that is being taken. The noble Duke made it perfectly plain that this was a very large enterprise, even in terms of the colossal figures with which we are accustomed to deal at the present time; and it is a very large area that is being affected. Not only is that the case, but this rivers issue was one which might have led not merely to friction but even to war between two members of the British Commonwealth, if it had not been averted by the action of the International Monetary Fund. I am certainly speaking without exaggeration when I say that the rivers issue was so vital and so serious for the inhabitants of both those countries that unless a solution had been found war might have broken out. There have been other issues between those two countries, but this one was pre-eminently one of gravity, because the livelihood of 50 million people was at stake; and had one of the countries jumped the barrier and excluded the other from its livelihood the situation would have been so serious that the consequences could not have been foreseen.

Now it is a very remarkable thing, I think, that a matter of war or peace was in fact decided by a financial body, the International Monetary Fund. When the International Monetary Fund was set up, many of us who supported it had great hopes for its future, and believed that it might serve a very useful, if prosaic, purpose in the finances of the world. Few of us would have expected that it would solve a great political question—but that is what it has done. But it could not have done that without the goodwill of all the parties concerned, and it is really wonderful that, of the sum of over £300 million which this scheme is going to cost, something like, think the noble Duke said, £200 million is being found by voluntary gifts from the various countries that are taking part. They are not loans, as I understand it; they are gifts. I think that is correct.


With the exception of a loan from the American Government. The American Government have given a very large gift, but they have supplemented their gift by a loan.


At any rate, a large part of all the money that has been found is in the nature of gift; and that, again, is a very interesting and hopeful feature for the future of the world. I hope that those countries which will benefit, as I am sure they will, and even other countries in other parts of the world, will appreciate that there is in the world a spirit of service and a spirit of generosity which is a good omen for the future.

There is one point more. Many countries make grants to other countries, but there are certain strings attached to them —namely, that all the money is to be spent in the country which is making the gift or loan. Now as I understand it, that is not at all the case at the present time. It is a gift which can be used anywhere; and, though the participating countries may get a share of doing the work, there is not a predestined, predetermined, figure by which the countries concerned are themselves going to benefit. That, I think, again, is a very good omen for future trading and for the goodwill of the world. Therefore, my Lords, speaking for those on my Benches here, I have the greatest pleasure in welcoming the scheme of which we have heard to-day. I regard it as of tremendous importance, not only for human need, having regard to the economic position of those two great parts of the British Commonwealth, but also for the political future of mankind, that this scheme goes through at the present time.

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, agree that this is an historic occasion, and I do not think it is one which should be allowed to pass without something being said from all parts of the House. I should like to congratulate the Government on this most imaginative proposal of theirs. I should also like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, in whose period of office, I gather, this was started. He and I have often crossed swords, but on this occasion I hope he will accept a bouquet instead of the rather more forceful projectile which sometimes whizzes across the House to him.

This, I believe, is an excellent example of international co-operation in the development field. Here we have seven countries and the International. Bank joining together to develop a vast region and to bring hope to people who, up to now, have seen little opportunity of using the great waters to the best advantage. Furthermore, I think it is an answer to much of the abuse and criticism which is constantly levelled at this country and at other Western Powers by the Soviet bloc. I would ask the noble Duke whether the Government is taking any steps to make known what we are doing in this particular scheme.

Only last week several Members of your Lordships' House, including myself, were representatives of the United Kingdom Parliament at the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians' Conference at Paris, and a good deal of the time of the Conference this year was taken up with consideration of the problems of the underdeveloped territories and how best the more developed countries can help them. I was amazed at the very slight knowledge of what is being done, particularly by this country, which existed among other countries in the North Atlantic Treaty area. And when you get outside that area, I should imagine that, far from having any knowledge of what we are doing, there is a great deal of misrepresentation. There are no strings attached at all; there is an out-and-out grant of £20 million by this country, as well as grants from other countries, and I feel that this is an answer to that sort of allegation. Believe me, my Lords, I know that we are not winning the propaganda battle in many of the so-called uncommitted countries. This is largely due to the fact that the information about what we are doing is not being put over by the Government or by any other means; so perhaps the noble Duke, when he replies, will tell us how he is going to get these points over.

There are two other points I should like to make on this particular aspect of the problem. The first is that we ought to make an acknowledgment of the generosity of the United States.


Hear, hear!


Surely, never in history has any country been as generous as the United States; and however much we may like to criticise them in other ways, for generosity and warm-heartedness I do not believe there has ever been a country which has shown the same example as she has. And here is another example of what, to her, must be, I should imagine, of little benefit.

There are many others here, including the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, who played such a great part in the development of these two Commonwealth countries, who have long been concerned at the division between Pakistan and India and the fact that these two Commonwealth countries were often at loggerheads. This is another reason for rejoicing in this particualr scheme: these two countries have come together. I should like to pay tribute both to Mr. Nehru and President Ayub Khan for the way they have come together and agreed. Furthermore, at the time of the signing of this Agreement they also agreed on six points which, one might say, to some extent were tied up with it. First of all, it was agreed between them that the Finance Ministers of the two countries would meet to resolve financial disputes created by partition; secondly, that a Ministerial Meeting would be held to review border settlements; thirdly, that efforts would be made to settle at an early date the dispute over movable properties left behind by refugees who fled in partition days fourthly, that there should be promotion of scientific, technical and agricultural co-operation; fifthly, that there should be an exchange of water resources information in the East Pakistan area; and sixthly, that there should be an exploration of the possibilities of increasing trade. They are all signs which we welcome.

In addition, President Ayub Khan said at the time of the signing of this Treaty that he hoped that the problem of Kashmir would soon be solved. I am sure we should all be glad to know that, because it has constantly been a source of possible danger between these two great countries. With this money which is to come to them, Pakistan will build mighty dams, barrages and linking canals. No doubt these and the works which will follow will have an enormous effect on the development of this area and will bring hope to people who possibly had little hope before.

I have just one last point, and it is really also a question. Command Paper No. 1199 refers in paragraph 2 to the fact that the works—that is, the works which will be put in hand with money available—will make possible land reclamation in waterlogged and saline areas in the West Punjab … My information, which is new and from a highly reputable source, is that the salinity in this whole area is becoming a very serious problem. No one quite knows why the whole area is becoming saline. It may be because it is low-lying, but I do not quite know why, and I gather that no one else does. It is a great problem, inasmuch as the water-table is becoming saline, and it may need a vast expenditure of money, in addition to this, to deal with it. That is one point to bear in mind: that there is this very serious threat to the whole region.

When I hear of a problem like this, it makes me sorry that so much of the money and resources of the world have to go on armaments, when there are these vast problems which we could tackle if we had the resources in money, materials and scientists to deal with them. This is a problem which the world will have to tackle before long; I am sure of that. Not, I may say, that I am against armaments under present conditions at all your Lordships will understand that. I know only too well that, unhappily, they are necessary; but I do think it is a matter for regret that we have to employ so many of our resources in that field instead of in this particular development field. My Lords, I have nothing more to say on this Bill except to welcome it from these Benches and to congratulate the Government on the most imaginative proposal which they have put before the House.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, as my noble friend who introduced this Bill and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, in very kind references have said, I was closely associated with this project during all its early years. I should therefore like to add my tribute of praise and thanksgiving for the great result which has been achieved.

During those years I had many discussions with Mr. Eugene Black, the President of the International Bank, with Mr. Iliff and with successions of Pakistani Ministers. At the very outset I told Mr. Black that I was convinced that this problem of the Indus waters was far and away the most serious problem between India and Pakistan. I was very interested, as I am sure, was the whole House, to have that so eloquently confirmed by the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, with his almost unique knowledge, now, in this House of that great sub-Continent. I was convinced, as he was, that unless the problem was solved there would be increasing suspicion, friction and bitterness. If the farmers of Pakistan were deprived of water they would starve; and starvation would lead to bloodshed.

No one could have been more understanding or more helpful than was Mr. Black throughout. I remember his saying to me after some years that this problem was far and away the most difficult and intractable problem with which the Bank had ever had to deal. But Mr. Black, Mr. Iliff, who devoted years to this, and the engineers, never failed in their faith or their determination. Obviously, technically (and this was what we considered at the start), much the easier solution was to agree on a sharing of the water of the eastern rivers as they fed the Indus Basin. But we were very soon convinced that, even if a formula for a division could be agreed upon, there would still he always suspicion and friction. One side would be accusing the other of using too much and passing away too little, and in the long run there would not have been enough water for either country. So the engineers tackled the much more difficult and costly problem of conserving and canalising the supply to Pakistan from the western rivers, not only a vast undertaking financially but, as an engineering feat, unique. I understand that in one place a vast river the size of the Thames has to pass under another great canal or waterway. They succeeded, and this imaginative and ingenious plan which is now embodied in the Treaty is the result. The skill and ingenuity of these engineers, the patience and tenacity of Mr. Iliff, were beyond all praise.

Now, to carry this out, we have this great co-operative partnership, of which so much has been said: India herself making a large contribution; the United States (how right the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was!) behaving with princely generosity in the gift—it is a free gift —which is being given; and Canada, Australia and New Zealand joining with us in liberal support, and Germany standing in and helping, too. This, indeed, is a great co-operative enterprise, and one hopes that it may be the prototype of things to come. Certainly this is a pact we can all subscribe to without reservation. It is a great, perhaps the greatest, guarantee of peace and harmony for India and Pakistan. The architects of this unique project have earned the gratitude, not only of the people of India and Pakistan, but of all in the free world who seek peace and goodwill.

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, in view of the experience and eloquence to which we have listened, I hesitated to intervene; but I feel, speaking as one who spent a great many years crossing and recrossing those six rivers, that a footnote might be of some use, added in the light of that experience. It always seemed to me extraordinary, when we had to face the eventual partition of this great sub-continent, that so few people realised that we had in fact to partition, as the noble Duke said, the greatest irrigation system in the whole world. I think that it was only about two years later, when it was suddenly found that the State of Bahawalpur, in southern Pakistan, would be deprived of its water, that we awoke to the seriousness of the situation.

In paying a tribute to the World Bank, I believe that we should also remember Mr. Daniel Lilienthal, of Tennessee Valley Authority fame, who I understand was responsible for putting this idea in the minds of the World Bank by an article he wrote in an American magazine after having been round the Indus country. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, has referred to the engineering complications. I would underline the point that the valleys and watersheds run from northeast to south-west and that the water has to be moved from the north-west to the south-east, right across the grain of the country; and, as he says, in many cases the water has to be siphoned under rivers and under other canals. That will be no mean accomplishment by the engineers. I feel that I should add one word about Kashmir, not because there are any misapprehensions in your Lordships' House of the situation, but because elsewhere one hears it said, under complete misapprehension, that the fact that a great deal of Kashmir is held by India may jeopardise the supply of water to Pakistan. This is a complete misapprehension. It is true that two of the rivers —the Jhelum and Chenab—flow from Indian-held Kashmir to Pakistan, but India could jeopardise that flow of water only by storing up of lot of useless water in Kashmir, and Kashmir has as much water as she needs. The only way in which this possibility might make sense would be if India were in a position to retain the water on Indian soil; but that, I think, is an impossibility.

We are reminded that Command Paper 1199 tells us that all the goods required for planning will be procured on a basis of international competition. In view of the fact that this is particularly a Commonwealth enterprise, I hope that British industry will be alive to its opportunities in the hundred and one ways which will arise, not only from the development works themselves but also in all the subsidiary enterprises that must flow from the opening up of these new canals. Apart from that, I can only add my gratitude to two member States of the Commonwealth who, at least in one of the great issues that separate them, have managed to reach agreement, under international auspices. I think that £20 million spread over some twelve years is not too high a price to pay.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful for the generous tribute that has been paid to this Bill from all sides of your Lordships' House. I should like to say how gratifying it is that such distinguished speakers, with so great a knowledge of the countries involved, have found time in their busy lives to make these tributes. It adds enormous weight to them. I am particularly pleased that special reference has been made to the great generosity of the United States of America, and I trust that those tributes will reach the proper ears.

I turn to the two specific questions which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore raised; first, to the question of whether we are sufficiently publicising what we are doing, and our aim. I would wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord about the vital importance of this, but I cannot agree that we are failing in doing this. Certainly so far as the two receiving countries are concerned, India and Pakistan, our aid is widely known and widely acknowledged. It occurs to me that it is more widely known in the countries of Asia than in Europe.


I was referring to the countries of Africa. That is where the fight is now: that is the cold war battlefield, and that is where we want this known.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, again I find myself in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore; and I was going on to say that, speaking on behalf of the Commonwealth Relations Office, I can assure him that great efforts, resulting in considerable success, are being made in all the countries of the Commonwealth to make it well known that we are making this considerable contribution to this great scheme. The fact that four other countries of the Commonwealth are also partaking in it will mean that throughout the Commonwealth, and particularly in the less developed countries, it will be known that the richer countries in the Commonwealth are prepared to help their poorer brethren in that community. However, we appreciate the great importance of this and due note will be taken of what the noble Lord has said.

On the question of the salinity of the Western Punjab I am afraid I cannot answer the noble Lord this afternoon. I do not know the answer, and it is no good pretending that I do. However, I will make it my business to find out and, if I may, I will get in touch with him and let him have as much information as I possibly can. We have further business on the Paper, and I would only end as I began by thanking noble Lords on sides of the House for their contributions to this debate and by saying how delighted Her Majesty's Government are that this Bill has met with such general and universal pleasure.

On Question, Bill read 2ª: Committee negatived.