HL Deb 16 February 1999 vol 597 cc543-5

2.46 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations are being made to the governments of India and Pakistan to sign the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, we continue to encourage both India and Pakistan to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty as it stands and without delay. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reiterated our concerns last month to both the Indian national security adviser, Barjesh Mishra, on 20th January and to the Indian Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, on 4th February. My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Derek Fatchett, restated the same concern to the Pakistani Minister of State, Siddique Kanju, in Islamabad on 8th February.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords. I am grateful for that Answer. I understand that the Indian Foreign Secretary has indicated that India would not wish to hold up the coming into force of the treaty. In view of the fact that neither Russia nor the United States has so far ratified the treaty, and neither India nor Pakistan has so far signed it, does the Minister believe that the treaty is likely to come into force before time runs out in September?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, we continue to urge all states to ratify the treaty, in particular those 44 named states which have a nuclear capability and whose ratification is essential for the treaty to enter into force. Fifteen of the 44 have ratified so far and 26 have signed. Three have not even signed: they are India, Pakistan and North Korea. The UK and France were the first of the nuclear weapon states to ratify in April 1998.

The noble Baroness referred to September 1999. As provided for in the treaty, a conference will be held in September 1999 to consider how to expedite entry into force. It was always envisaged that that conference would be to review and to see how the treaty could be pushed forward.

Lord Ahmed

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that India is developing Prethvi II the long range missile which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads and that Pakistan will follow, as it did in respect of the nuclear tests? Does she agree that if the issue of Kashmir were solved in accordance with United Nations resolutions both countries could spend money on education, health and the eradication of poverty rather than wasting it on a nuclear arsenal?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that question. Of course, it is clear that the key to resolving conflict in the sub-continent is for there to be direct talks between India and Pakistan on all issues of possible conflict, which should include Kashmir. That is the best route for the avoidance of a costly and dangerous arms race in south Asia.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, is the G8, encouraged by the United States, about to dilute its principal position on economic loan restrictions? If that is the case, what message does that send to neo-region states which are criticised for developing a nuclear capability for civilian benefit only?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, the restrictions imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are very much in place and remain in place. We have never criticised states whose nuclear programmes are clearly intended for civilian purposes only.

Lord Dholakia

My Lords, will the Minister indicate what discussions have taken place between Britain and the rest of the Security Council members about the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with reference to India and Pakistan? Will the Minister also indicate whether it is in the interests either of India or Pakistan for unilateral or multi-lateral sanctions to be continued against those countries? Such action gives the impression of coercion rather than willingness to be able to join such a treaty.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, sanctions were imposed to express international dismay and unhappiness at the nuclear tests carried out by both India and Pakistan in the summer of last year. As regards further discussion with other members of the Security Council and India, the US Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbot, has now conducted eight rounds of talks with the Indian and Pakistani Governments on non-proliferation and regional security issues. The latest round was held in late January, during Mr. Talbot's visits to New Delhi and Islamabad. The Russian Prime Minister, Yevgeniy Primakov, visited New Delhi in December. The Russian Government have told us that he too urged India to sign the CTBT. France and China have also had recent bilateral contacts with the Indian and Pakistani Governments and I have indicated the British contacts with both the Indian and the Pakistani Governments.

Lord Paul

My Lords, coming from the sub-continent, I would say that both India and Pakistan are peace-loving and responsible members of the world community. I have no doubt that they want to show regard for the world community. Will the Minister make sure that the sensitiveness of their national pride is kept in mind during negotiations on the CTBT?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, Britain has a long and close relationship with both countries. Your Lordships can be assured that we will certainly keep firmly in mind all the points raised by my noble friend.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, may I ask—

Noble Lords

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