HL Deb 21 November 1962 vol 244 cc895-6

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, may I take this opportunity of repeating the Question which was put at Question Time: whether Her Majesty's Government will make a statement on the present position on the Indian frontier?


My Lords, your Lordships will have seen the statement published by the Chinese Government offering a cease-fire and withdrawal of their troops. The Indian Government have always made it clear that they were ready for a settlement by negotiation, and we for our part would, of course, welcome a peaceful outcome if this can be attained with justice and honour to India. It is for the Indian Government to determine whether the Chinese proposals constitute an acceptable basis for negotiation.

In all these matters we are maintaining the closest touch with the Indian Government, and for this purpose a mission has left for India by air to-day. This will consist of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff with a suitable military team, together with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Commonwealth Relations. The Commonwealth Secretary was intending to leave for a visit to both India and Pakistan this week but has been forced to postpone this owing to illness. He hopes, however, to leave at the end of this week.

I know that the Indian people have been heartened by the support which the Government and people of Britain have shown to a fellow member of the Commonwealth in resisting aggression. Our two Governments have throughout been in the closest touch, but we have thought that at this time of danger it would be invaluable to arrange personal contact on the spot.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will all be grateful to the Foreign Secretary for the statement he has made. I gather from the last message I saw that Mr. Nehru is not likely to be coming to any sort of decision until he has received a communication in writing from the Chinese authorities. I suppose that he does not take the statements in the Press at their face value and waits until statements have been personally delivered to him.

May I say that I welcome very much indeed the statement that this mission (shall I call it?) is being sent to India at the present time? I am very glad that the Chief of the Imperial General Staff is going and I gather that he will take a military team with him. I wish that a senior member of the Cabinet were going at once with this mission. Therefore, I hope very much, of course, that the Commonwealth Secretary, Mr. Sandys, will be able to go in a day or two, but if not I hope the Government will reconsider the position and see that a senior Minister is sent on this very important mission.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Viscount. I have no reason to think that the Commonwealth Secretary will not be able to go quite shortly; and he hopes, I know, to be able to do so. No doubt if he were not able to do so the Prime Minister would make other arrangements.


My Lords, would the Foreign Secretary say whether this mission is likely to make contact in Pakistan? Also could he say, if it is not inconvenient, what approaches have been made to or from Burma in this awkward question?


The Commonwealth Secretary intends, as I said in my Answer, to visit Pakistan as well as India. So far as the Government of Burma is concerned, we are of course in normal contact with the Government of Burma but I do not think I have anything special to report to-day.