§ 3.42 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS OFFICE (THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition asked for a statement about the situation in India and Pakistan following the visit of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs. My right honourable friend, who has just returned from India, As at this moment making a statement in another place and, if I may, I will read out his statement. It is as follows:
"The House was promised a report on my visit to India and Pakistan from which I returned this morning. I have tried to condense my remarks as much as possible but I am afraid that I have a good deal of ground to cover.
"I arrived in Delhi on November 24, where I joined the British Mission led by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary and General Sir Richard Hull, which had been sent out to discuss India's requests for military aid in co-operation with a similar American team, headed by Mr. Averell Harriman.
23 "My talks with Mr. Nehru, with other Ministers and with Members of Parliament of various parties left me in no doubt that the Indian Government and people, while welcoming the cease-fire and while recognising the deficiencies in their defences, ace in no mood to surrender territory to the Chinese at the pistol point. When I left Delhi the Indian Government was still seeking from Peking clarification of several important points in the Chinese proposals and no definite decision had been taken on the Indian Government's final reply.
"But Whatever reply the Indian Government may make to the present ceasefire proposals, one thing is quite clear. After this unprovoked attack (by a neighbour whom they had trusted, the people of India, who are more united than ever before, have made up their minds never again to rely for their safety and freedom upon the good faith of Communist China. They are resolutely determined, with the help of their friends, to build up the best system of defence of which they are capable. They regretfully recognise that this will inevitably involve sacrifices of all kinds, and no doubt some interference with the rate of economic progress. But that is a price they are prepared to pay.
"General Hull met Indian army leaders with whom he had valuable talks in an atmosphere of complete frankness and confidence. He was invited to visit the North-Eastern front, where he was greatly impressed by the high morale of the Indian forces, despite their recent reverses, and with the energetic manner in which shortcomings in the military organisation were being tackled.
"In the discussions between the British and American military teams and the Indian Defence Staff, it was agreed that first priority should be given to the re-equipment of those formations which had suffered severely in the recent fighting and to the provision of mountain warfare equipment for the other divisions already deployed or to be deployed on the Chinese border. The Indian Ministers and Service chiefs made it clear that 24 they had no wish to ask for arms from abroad which could be produced in India and that they were already taking action to step up the output of their ordnance factories and to expand in other ways their manufacturing capacity.
"During my stay in Delhi, I concluded an agreement with the Indian Government, one of the purposes of which was to reassure Pakistan that arms supplied to India to meet the Chinese aggression would be used for no other purpose. Particulars of this agreement have already been given to the House.
"In my discussions with Mr. Nehru I made it clear that, when a fellow member of the Commonwealth is attacked, and asks for assistance, it is our natural instinct to do whatever we can as quickly as possible to help in the emergency. However, both Mr. Harriman and I pointed out that, when we came to consider longer-term military aid, the British and American peoples would be unhappy to see that an appreciable part of the Indian Army was being deployed not for defence against China, but for defence against Pakistan. We therefore expressed to Mr. Nehru our strong hope that, in the face of the Chinese threat to the whole sub-Continent, a new attempt would be made to settle the differences between India and Pakistan.
"At the end of our talks, Mr. Nehru agreed that I might inform President Ayub of his readiness to hold discussions for this purpose. On my arrival in Rawalpindi I found President Ayub equally conscious of the importance and urgency of a settlement; and, despite previous disappointments, he agreed that discussions should be held. I returned to Delhi with the draft of a joint statement which, after some amendment on both sides, was issued simultaneously by President Ayub and Mr. Nehru on Thursday evening. This announced the intention of the two Governments to hold discussions with the object of reaching an honourable and equitable settlement.
"On my return again to Rawalpindi I had a meeting with members of the Pakistan Parliament of different Parties. I found them very sceptical about 25 India's intentions; but I did my best to convey to them my belief in the sincere desire of the Indian Government to find some way of ending the differences which divided the two countries.
"On my arrival at Karachi on Friday evening, on my way home, I was shown a report of a statement made by Mr. Nehru in the Indian Parliament that morning, which was interpreted as implying that the Indian Government had, in advance of the discussions, decided to exclude any solution which would involve a change in the status quo. This had created a feeling that the Pakistan Government had allowed itself to be misled; and I was told that a motion of censure had been tabled in the Parliament at Rawalpindi.
"In the light of my previous talks with Mr. Nehru, I felt sure that his statement was not intended to convey the meaning attributed to it. I therefore decided to fly back immediately to Delhi to clear up the misunderstanding. Although the hour was late, Mr. Nehru was good enough to receive me at once. He confirmed that a wrong interpretation had been put upon his words and issued a most helpful statement.
"In this he made clear that he toad no intention of placing any restrictions on the scope of the talks or to exclude consideration of any solutions which the Pakistan Government might wish to propose. At the same time, he expressed his positive belief that, with good will, it should be possible to reach a fair settlement.
"This welcome statement, which reached Rawalpindi just in time to be announced when Parliament opened on Saturday morning, had an immediately reassuring effect, and helped to dispel some of the earlier suspicions.
"It has been suggested that the British and American Governments have sought to act as mediators and have put to the two Governments proposals for solving the Kashmir problem. There is no truth in this. Our roôe has been a much more limited one. As friends of both countries, we have encouraged them, in the light of the new situation, to try again to settle this grievous and damaging dispute 26 between two neighbours who have so much in common and who have so much to gain by friendly co-operation."
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Duke for giving us the statement which has been made in another place by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. I would say at once that we welcome very much the statement as a whole and agree with the details which it contains. We on this side of the House have all been exceedingly anxious that the opportunity raised by the general strategic situation in relation to the sub-continent to get these two very important nations within the sub-continent to be more co-operative should not be lost, and I hope that the result of the Secretary of State's visit will really contribute to that state of affairs.
I gather that the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations did not wish to comment at this stage upon the actual effectiveness of the present state of equipment of the Indian forces, in case there was a renewal of the campaign against them. I think that at this stage it would not be wise to ask any further question about that; and perhaps we might await further details that may come to our hands, until we know what arms have been supplied by the friends of India, and how far they are being used for the purpose for which they are sent and not to maintain the special forces facing the Pakistan forces over Kashmir.
My Lords, from these Benches we, too, should like to thank the noble Duke for the statement, and we see no reason to withhold from the Secretary of State our congratulations and thanks for what obviously was a very successful mission. There is one small point at the end of the statement saying that the American and British Missions are not at the moment dealing with the Kashmir question. I hope that that question will be borne in mind, however; and if we can help in any way it would seem to be a suitable meeting point or sound point of mediation in which we might be of assistance.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition and 27 to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for their extremely helpful comments on my right honourable friend's statement. I will bring to his notice what the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Rea, have said, and I am sure he would wish me to say how grateful he is for their co-operation in this very important matter.