HL Deb 18 December 1961 vol 236 cc502-5

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I had given Private Notice. The Question is as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they propose to take in regard to the Indian Government's invasion of Goa, Daman and Diu in the light of our obligations to Portugal under the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1899.


My Lords, it might be convenient if I were to ask a Private Notice Question on the same subject, to which perhaps the noble Earl could reply at the same time—namely:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make about the safety of the lives and property of British subjects in Goa during the present emergency?


My Lords, with the permission of your Lordships I will answer these two Private Notice Questions together. Throughout the period of tension before hostilities began, Her Majesty's Government made repeated representations to the Indian Government to refrain from the use of force to settle this dispute. They also appealed to the Portuguese Government to avoid all provocation. At the same time Her Majesty's Government informed the Portuguese Government, as indeed they did in 1954, that in spite of our obligations under the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, it would be impossible for Her Majesty's Government to engage in hostilities against any member of the Commonwealth. We have now been informed that Portugal will appeal to the United Nations. We shall support the inscription of this item on the Agenda. The next step will depend on what the United Nations decide. Our immediate purpose must be to bring the fighting to an end.

As to the safety of British subjects and property in Goa, the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Karachi has told us that there are only about a dozen British subjects there. Some of these have already left. We hold the Indian Government responsible for protecting the lives and property of the remainder, but Her Majesty's Government will certainly take further steps themselves if this should appear necessary.

My Lords, H.M.S. "Rhyl" has been diverted towards Goa, in case any assistance to the British subjects there should be called for.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend two supplementary questions? The first is, whether he is aware that the assurances regarding the maintenance of Portuguese sovereignty in all the Portuguese colonies were re- affirmed as recently as June 16, 1943, in a Note from the British Ambassador, the late Sir Ronald Campbell, to Dr. Salazar in connection with our application for facilities for the use of the Azores; and furthermore, that at that time—in fact, in a Note of October 25, 1943—the United States chargé d'affaires, Mr. George Kennan, also sent a Note in which he undertook to respect Portuguese sovereignty on behalf of the United States Government.

Having regard to these facts—I quite appreciate the difficulty in which Her Majesty's Government find themselves—may I ask my noble friend whether, instead of simply waiting for the Portuguese Government to bring the matter before the Assembly, as I understood him to say it would, he would call for an immediate meeting of the Security Council with a view to a demand being formulated for the immediate withdrawal of the Indian forces behind their own frontiers in all three territories?


My Lords, of course I am aware of the terms of our Treaty with Portugal, and of the representations that were made to the Portuguese Government in 1943. In 1954 we explained to the Portuguese Government that we should not be able to assist it materially against another member of the Commonwealth, should fighting break out between Portugal and that member of the Commonwealth. I spent last week in Paris with the Portuguese Foreign Minister, and the Portguese have asked us for diplomatic assistance in trying to convince the Indians that they should not use force; and, as I said in my original Answer, we have made repeated representations to the Indian Government to that effect. So far as my noble friend's last supplementary question is concerned, the Portuguese will take this to the Security Council, and of course it is for the Portuguese to say what the terms of their resolution will be, although we shall keep in close touch with them. We shall make it quite clear, in support of the Portuguese, that we utterly deplore this action which the Indian Government has taken.


My Lords, will the noble Earl arrange that similar representations be made to the Indian Government, with a request that it should cease fire (which is the common topic at the moment) pending action by the Security Council?


My Lords, an approach was made to Mr. Nehru by the acting Secretary-General of the United Nations. That approach to Mr. Nehru had no effect. Certainly we will make a request to the Indian Government that fighting should cease. I think the noble Lord is right. Of course the place in which to bring the pressure is the Security Council when the resolution is taken, which I imagine will be almost immediately.


My Lords, may I say just one word on the answer to my own question? I should like to say that it seems to me that the action of Her Majesty's Government in dealing with the lives and property of British subjects is quite satisfactory. I thank the noble Earl.


My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether the approach to the Indian Government will be a unilateral approach, or will our other colleagues in the United Nations take part? I apologise for not giving notice of that question.


My Lords, the forum in which this question will be debated will be the Security Council, and, therefore, I do not know. Of course, I cannot forecast what the voting on any resolution might be, although one might forecast with fair certainty, I suppose, that the Russians would probably veto any resolution, in which case the matter might be transferred to the Assembly. But I should hope that members of the United Nations would have no hesitation in deploring the use of force. After all, the purpose of the United Nations is to prevent force from being used.


My Lords, will the noble Earl or his representative make it clear, when this matter goes before the Security Council, that we have in this matter a very special position, as indeed we have as signatories to a Treaty with Portugal, which is now nearly 600 years old and which has endured over that great period?


Yes, my Lords, I will.