HL Deb 10 June 2002 vol 636 cc33-46

4.13 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos)

My Lords, I should like to repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in another place:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement about the situation in India and Pakistan. Intense diplomatic efforts and decisions made in recent days by the Governments of India and Pakistan give grounds for some optimism, and the tensions have eased a little. None the less, with a million men under arms on either side of the Line of Control in a high state of readiness, the risks of a conflict are still significant. With both countries in possession of nuclear weapons, the potential consequences for the region and the wider world are devastating.

"Let me give some brief background and then set out the action which Her Majesty's Government, working particularly with the US Government, have been taking.

"The territory of Kashmir has been the subject of dispute since Independence in 1947. Three major wars have been fought between India and Pakistan in 1948/49, 1965 and 1971 and there was a particularly bloody battle in Kargil in 1999, on the Indian side of the Line of Control.

"The people of Kashmir have been caught in the middle of all this, at a cost of tens of thousands of lives, with even more displaced. There has long been serious concern in the international community about the human rights deficit in Jammu and Kashmir, and about the conduct of some elections there.

"In the last decade or so the character of the conflict has changed with the incursion of armed militants across the Line of Control into India from the Pakistani side. A number of terrorist organisations including Laskhar e Tayyaba, Jaish e Mohammed and Harakat Mujahideen, each of which I proscribed when I was Home Secretary. have been at the forefront of violent activity within the region.

"India has long charged that such terrorism has had the covert support of successive Pakistani Governments, and in particular the Inter-services Intelligence Directorate (ISID), the main intelligence agency in Pakistan. Her Majesty's Government accept that there is a clear link between ISID and these groups.

"Towards the end of last year India suffered two serious terrorist outrages. On 1st October more than 40 people died in an assault on the State Assembly in Srinagar. On 13th December the Indian Parliament building itself in New Delhi was attacked, leaving 14 dead. In response to intensive diplomatic pressure, including the visit to the region by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, President Musharraf delivered a speech on 12th January in which he pledged that 'No organisation will be allowed to indulge in terrorism in the name of Kashmir'.

"From early May, when the heavy winter snows began to melt, there was however an increase in terrorist activity in Jammu and Kashmir and a rise in levels of infiltration across the Line of Control. This renewed violence included an attack on 14th May on a passenger bus and residential quarters of the Indian Army base at Kaluchak, killing 34 people, mainly women arid children. A week later the prominent moderate Kashmiri politician, Abdul Ghani Lone, was assassinated.

"The dispute between India and Pakistan is at root a bilateral matter which can be resolved only by direct dialogue between the parties. But it is a. dispute with potent international implications, both because of the potential scale of any military action including the possible use of nuclear weapons, and because, post-September 11th, new imperatives have been imposed on all member states by UNSCR 1373 to take effective action to counter terrorism.

"Since last autumn, and particularly since the resurgence of violence in recent weeks, this conflict has been high on the international community's agenda. There has been intensive diplomatic activity from the US and UK Governments, Russia, China, other EU and G8 countries, and of course from those in the region. As part of this co-ordinated diplomatic effort, I visited Pakistan and India on 28th and 29th May. I had discussions in Pakistan with President Musharraf and Foreign Minister Sattar, and in India with Prime Minister Vajpayee, External Affairs Minister Singh, Home Minister Advani and Defence Minister Fernandes and Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Gandhi.

"In Islamabad, I underlined to President Musharraf the need for Pakistan to take visible, decisive and verifiable steps to seal the Line of Control; to stop supplies to militant groups; to help restrain the violent activities of these groups; and to close the militant training camps on Pakistan's side of the Line of Control.

"In Delhi, in my meetings with Prime Minister Vajpayee and External Affairs Minister Singh, I stressed that, as Pakistan demonstrated that it was taking the necessary steps to clamp down on terrorism, India should respond positively. A number of possible steps to reduce tension were discussed with both sides. I also underlined to the Indian Government, once again, the need for them to take steps to improve the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir and to ensure free, fair and inclusive elections in Jammu and Kashmir this autumn.

"Before my visit, Commissioner Patten visited the region and held discussions with both sides. Last week at a regional conference in Almaty, both Russian President Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin met separately with President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has spoken at length to both sides and to Presidents Bush and Putin about the situation.

"Following my trip, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visited both countries last week. Mr Armitage was given a categorical undertaking by President Musharraf that the sealing of the Line of Control would be 'permanent'. The Government of India described that as a 'step forward' and said that they would respond `appropriately and positively'. Separately the US and UK Governments have assessed that there appears to have been a significant reduction in incursions across the Line of Control since the end of May.

"I am pleased to tell the House that when I spoke this morning to my Indian counterpart, Jaswant Singh, he told me that India was announcing today that restrictions on overflights from Pakistan over India were to be lifted and that the name of the next Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan was being made public. I also understand that the western and eastern Indian fleets are returning to port.

"We have therefore seen both sides take first steps in the right direction. But the position is still precarious. Terrorism is still a threat. The situation will continue to require the engagement of the international community for some time.

"Like my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, and President Putin, President Bush has made clear that he intends to remain personally involved. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be visiting India and Pakistan this week. The international efforts against terrorism and the Kashmir crisis will be an important agenda item for the meeting of G8 Foreign Ministers in Whistler, Western Canada, which I shall be attending later this week. Fellow EU Foreign Ministers are discussing the matter today.

"The present crisis has of course had direct consequences for many UK citizens and their families. The UK has up to 3 million citizens who are of South Asian origin. As Secretary of State I have to balance our wider foreign policy interests against my duty of care for all UK citizens in the region and for British Government staff and their families, whether UK-based or locally engaged. In response to specific terrorist threats, I decided on 22nd May to reduce the level of staff in Pakistan. At the same time our travel advice was amended to advise against all but essential travel to Pakistan. As the House was about to rise, I wrote to all colleagues to give details.

"As tensions increased between the two countries, I announced on 31st May a draw-down of less-essential British staff and their families from all posts in Pakistan and from New Delhi and Mumbai and also issued new travel advice for India. Last Wednesday I announced a further strengthening of our advice in respect of both countries.

"We are also working hard to keep the South Asian communities here properly informed about what we are doing. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary met representatives of these communities on 29th May to listen to their concerns. And I held a similar meeting the following day on my return from the sub-continent.

"Our High Commissions in New Delhi and Islamabad are among the busiest visa and consular operations in the world. Throughout this difficult period we have maintained a service in India, albeit at a reduced level. Visa and consular operations in Pakistan had to be temporarily suspended, but I am pleased to tell the House that a limited service resumed last Thursday.

"Notwithstanding the more hopeful signs, the situation in the region remains dangerous. The problems between India and Pakistan cannot satisfactorily be resolved by military means. This would only lead to more suffering and potentially devastating consequences for everyone. Working with our international partners, particularly with the US, our diplomatic efforts are there to encourage both sides to take the necessary steps to end terrorism, to reduce tensions and to enter into effective dialogue. Only then can we hope to break the cycle of crises and secure a permanent peaceful settlement to the issue of Kashmir".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.25 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for repeating the full and detailed Statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. Like her and the Government, we welcome what appear to be hopeful signs, including the removal of overflight restrictions and the return of the fleets to port. However, we also recognise that the situation remains extremely precarious and dangerous.

We, too, draw comfort from the apparently full pledge given by President Musharraf to end cross-border terrorism permanently. To the extent that they are positive signs, they will come as a great relief to the 3 million people in this country who have close connections with the sub-continent.

Perhaps I may ask a number of questions. The first I put to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, just before your Lordships' House went into recess. I asked what advice we had been able to give, perhaps for the longer term, as regards a proper set of arrangements providing a dialogue and hotline between the two nuclear-armed potential combatants. One of the terrors of the situation has been that no sub-structure has existed of the kind which sustained us during the days of mutually assured deterrence in the Cold War era in Europe.

I want to ask the Minister more about the meeting which took place in Kazakhstan during the recess when the Russian President, Mr Putin, and his colleagues apparently sought to use their good offices to bring the two sides together. Can she give any more information on the longer-term Russian interests and intentions in the whole area? Are there any more details about what was said to Mr Armitage? We have heard of the pledge given by President Musharraf. The American position is crucial as both potential combatants believe that the US is on their side. Indeed it is in the common front against global terrorism. Was anything said to Mr Armitage or to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary about closing the militant training camps on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control? Clearly, while they exist an enormous danger of resumed infiltration exists.

As regards advice given to British citizens and those with dual passports, to what extent do the Government assess that it is being heeded? How many people might be involved in the departure? Although in the past few days and hours the level of concern has become a little more subdued, it would be interesting to know how many people are likely to be involved.

Furthermore, will the Minister take this opportunity to put into perspective and possibly dampen down some of the weekend press stories about a potential colossal influx of refugees and the stories that sites for holding centres for the enormous number of people were being identified? Such stories need rapidly to be downgraded and put into perspective.

Will the Minister refute or clarify the suggestion made in some weekend newspapers that some international force will police the Line of Control and that it might include United Kingdom troops? If that is so, then from this side of your Lordships' House one has to ask which troops those would be. Given all the other commitments being undertaken at the moment, there cannot be all that many troops available.

We are grateful to the Government for continuing to keep us informed about this evolving situation. Although the parties may not like it, in particular our Indian friends, inevitably there are now international implications in a way that perhaps there could riot have been in earlier years. The matter is on the frontline of the war against global terrorism and our concerns in that effort. Furthermore, this is not a faraway country of which we know little for two glaring reasons, which I pointed out in response to the Statement made just before the recess.

The first reason concerns the events of September 11th and the bitter fact that Pakistan is right at the heart of the anti-terrorist war. Indeed, in the past the Taliban and al'Qaeda forces may well or even did receive substantial succour from the Pakistan side of the Afghanistan border. Thus terrorism winds itself around this issue, as it does around almost every issue of foreign policy as regards the United Kingdom. Secondly, it is a fact that the countries both appear to have tactical and semi-strategic nuclear weapons which would devastate each other, destroy large parts of the surrounding regions and create an atrocity and a horror against the whole of civilisation.

Those are the two ugly dangers. Unfortunately, while there has been a slight relief of tension, those dangers have not gone away. That is why I am sure that noble Lords would like to insist that we continue to be kept as closely informed as possible in the dangerous weeks ahead.

4.33 p.m.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, I echo the thanks expressed to the Foreign Secretary for the Statement and to the noble Baroness for repeating it. I also thank the Foreign Secretary for having kept us informed just before the House went into recess. I too welcome the reduction in tension and the steps taken by the Indian Government, not least those announced by the Foreign Secretary as revealed to him by the Indian Foreign Minister, Mr Singh, when they spoke this morning on the telephone.

Has any further advice been issued to travellers to the region or has any change been made to the drawdown of our diplomatic posts, as announced on 31st May? Alternatively, are the Government waiting until these reductions in tension further develop on the ground before returning to their full-scale diplomatic complement in the two countries as well as relaxing the advice given to travellers?

As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, pointed out, the Statement refers to the dispute as one with potent international implications. That cannot be avoided, first, because of the threat of possible military action leading to the use of nuclear weapons by these two powers and, secondly, because of the role of terrorism in the region. Is not this situation in south Asia a threat to peace? At what point, if any, will the Security Council and the Secretary-General of the United Nations become involved? The Statement points out that we are working with the US Government, but what about the other players such as President Putin, President Jiang Zemin and so forth? How are we to co-rdinate our diplomatic moves with those of all the other world leaders in places such as Almaty? Will we never reach a point at which all the threads are, as it were, pulled together by the Secretary-General and the Security Council?

Does the noble Baroness think that the Line of Control can be sealed? How would that be monitored? The Statement refers to "verifiable" sealing of the Line of Control. In that connection, what purpose is being served by the continued presence of UNMOGIP representatives on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control when for over half a century its representatives have been sending reports to UN headquarters only to have them finish up in a filing cabinet somewhere in the basement without having been looked at either by the Security Council or by members of the public? Could it be suggested to both sides that the UNMOGIP reports are published more widely so that light is thrown on the problem of cross-border infiltration, as well as on the question of firing across the Line of Control? Who is responsible for initiating that? Perhaps it could also be suggested that both sides should withdraw their artillery to a distance of, say, 25 kilometres from the Line of Control—or istance would be sufficient to ensure that shells could not reach the other side—in mind that this kind of firing kills several hundred civilians on both sides every year? Despite that, it has little, if any, effect on the military situation.

Finally, does the noble Baroness agree that although, following the Simla agreement of over 30 years ago in which India and Pakistan declared that they would resolve all their differences, including those concerning Kashmir, through bilateral negotiation, high-level meetings have taken place every few years, these have been interspersed with long periods of non-communication between the two parties? After all this time, should not the parties recognise that the process itself is flawed and that a new mechanism is required if there is to be a solution to the problem? If that much is accepted, could not the international community ask the parties whether they would like help and advice on the process rather than on the solution itself? If some kind of reinforcement of the process is not provided, does not the noble Baroness agree that, however far we may move away from the crisis confronting the subcontinent at the moment, there can be no guarantee that it will not return in a few years' time?

4.37 p.m.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for recognising our wish to keep Parliament informed. We shall continue to make Statements and thus ensure that noble Lords and Members of the other place are kept fully informed of developments. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, pointed out that the Statement sets out some positive signs. However, I should like to go through in turn the questions that have been raised.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked what advice we had given to India and Pakistan, in particular with regard to putting in place arrangements for a proper dialogue and hotline. The Statement makes clear that, to date, all the diplomatic activity has had as its aim the reduction of tension and the encouragement of dialogue between the two countries. I recognise entirely the point made by the noble Lord that a system of dialogue needs to be institutionalised. However, we feel that this is a sequence of moves which we are trying to ensure is taken forward. We will do all we can to ensure that some kind of system is put in place.

The noble Lord also asked about the meeting held in Almaty. President Putin met President Musharraf and President Vajpayee separately. I am not able to say any more about the content of those meetings, but they form part of the process being engaged in by the international community. I know that President Putin reiterated the concerns felt by the international community about the situation. He urged the leaders of both sides to find ways of reducing tension. Furthermore, he made the point which I repeated in the Statement; namely, that war would not solve any of the problems.

We are urging a step-by-step approach; the sealing of the border marks just the first step in relation to that. With regard to further details of the visits of the US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, I am unable to provide those but, as I have said, as the situation becomes clearer as a result of each of the visits, we shall keep both Houses informed.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, also asked specifically about the advice being given to British citizens, and in particular he asked about numbers. In India, we estimate that approximately 52,000 people are affected, made up of 61 UK-based staff, 10,000 tourists or short-stay—that is, up to six months—visitors, 10,000 long-term residents who are dual or mono-nationals, 22,000 British overseas passport holders who do not have the right of abode in the United Kingdom, and 10,000 foreign nationals with a possible right of residence in the United Kingdom.

As to take-up and the heeding of advice, we have changed our travel advice for India and Pakistan on 23rd May, 31st May and 5th June. A number of people in India and Pakistan—for example, those who are visiting relatives—have not given any indication at this point in time that they are ready to leave. That is partly because the situation, particularly in the cities, continues as normal. We shall continue to make our concerns known to those communities.

In Pakistan, we estimate that approximately 88,000 people are affected—that is, 70 UK-based staff, 8,000 tourists, 30,000 long-term residents who are dual or mono-nationals, 10,000 British overseas passport holders and 40,000 foreign nationals with a possible right of residence in the United Kingdom.

The noble Lord asked also about the refugee situation and the reports in the press over the week-end. We have no evidence at this point to suggest that there will be a sudden influx of asylum seekers. We shall of course continue to monitor the situation closely. If it became the case that a large number of people were travelling towards Europe we would clearly need to discuss the situation at a Europe-wide level and agree a solution with our counterparts. However, I reiterate that we have no evidence at the moment to suggest that there will be a sudden influx of asylum seekers.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked about further advice to travellers and the drawdown of staff. The last advice was given on 5th June when we advised against all travel to India for the time being and further advised all British nationals currently in India to leave. With respect to Pakistan, we advised against all travel to Pakistan and said that all British nationals currently in that country should leave. As to the further drawdown of staff, we have contingency plans in more than 100 countries of the world. We shall continue to monitor the position and make whatever arrangements need to be made as a result of the ongoing situation.

As to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in regard to the UN Security Council, its five permanent members have considered the situation and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken to the UN Secretary General. The members of the group of live, the P5. have been most active in attempting to defuse the crisis, including the presence in Almaty of the presidents of China and Russia. The United States and the United Kingdom have been actively engaged and the new French Foreign Minister knows the region extremely well and has also been engaged.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked about reports of British troops being sent to verify the status of the line of control. These reports are inaccurate. We are working with India and Pakistan to help de-escalate the crisis over Kashmir. Verification will be a vital element and we know that some form of monitoring could be part of a long-term solution. One of the issues on the table is the possibility of joint verification exercises between India and Pakistan. This is still being discussed.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked whether we would continue to help and advise on the process as opposed to the bilateral elements of the dispute. We shall of course bear this in mind. We have constantly to keep in mind the history of the dispute. There has been considerable international activity. All the parties engaged in diplomacy in this effort are in constant contact. The noble Lord was concerned about co-ordination. There has been constant contact on this matter. Of course we will be there to offer help and advice on the process, if it is appropriate and if it is asked for.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Desai

My Lords, I welcome the Statement that the noble Baroness has repeated. I should like to put two considerations to her. It is true that this is a bilateral dispute but, given the presence of nuclear arms, the effect of any conflict between India and Pakistan would be multilateral on neighbouring countries which are not part of the dispute. Does my noble friend agree that the very presence of nuclear arms requires that the international community should have an opinion on a speedy solution to the Kashmir problem? It is not as if this matter can be left to India and Pakistan alone because other countries in central Asia could be affected by nuclear fall-out.

Secondly, does my noble friend believe that it would be helpful for the UK Government to publish either "blue skies thinking" on ways of solving the problem, or at least an historical background to the issues and information on what has been done so far? There is a lot of misinformed debate going on, even within this country, in regard to the origins of the dispute and the issues on which the two sides disagree. It would help immensely with peace in our communities if some misunderstandings were removed.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that the dispute between India and Pakistan is. at root, a bilateral matter. However, as I made clear in the Statement, it is a dispute with potent international implications because of the potential scale of military action. That is part of the reason that there has been such intense diplomatic activity, which will continue.

My noble friend also asked whether it would be helpful to engage in some "blue skies thinking". I believe that what is needed at this point is the kind of sequenced approach that we and others in the international community have taken. We are engaged in dialogue with the two sides. As a result of that dialogue a number of commitments have been made by each side. We would like to see those commitments carried through. We shall continue to see what help and support we can give to both sides and, as appropriate, if we are asked to give any further support we shall consider the matter.

I agree with my noble friend that there is a great deal of inaccurate information. We shall do all that we can to ensure that the debate is held in as accurate an environment as possible.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the very helpful Statement. It seems to me that during the days of the Cold War there were two main reasons why deterrence held. The first reason was the presence of a secure, secret, direct line, a matter referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. Can the Minister give an assurance that in the step-by-step approach that she mentioned, which is quite understandable, the Government will keep pressing until there is such a secure direct line? The crisis over Kashmir will not go away and, sadly, it may be needed in the future.

The second reason that deterrence held was a reality of what appalling destruction would be brought about by the use of nuclear weapons. One of the worst features of recent days has been the interviews with both soldiers and civilians in the Indian sub-continent giving the impression that nuclear weapons are weapons like any other weapons.

One of the good effects of CND in the bad days of the Cold War—I was never a member and to some extent opposed CND—was that it kept before the general public the appalling nature of these weapons. So far as I know, there is no equivalent to the CND in the Indian sub-continent. Is there any way in which Her Majesty's Government might prevail upon, for instance, Japan which has had first-hand experience of these weapons to engage in an educational programme in India and Pakistan about the nature of such weapons? They are not like other weapons.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. Nuclear weapons are not like any other weapons. It is important that awareness is raised within the populations of Pakistan and India of the possible effect of going down that terrible road. We shall do all we can and I shall take back to my colleagues the right reverend Prelate's specific suggestion.

The right reverend Prelate also raised the issue of a secure secret direct line, as did the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. As I said, we are engaged in trying to ensure that there is dialogue between India and Pakistan, and that there is a sequenced process. I shall take back both noble Lords' very good point that we should not desist until such time as we have agreement that such a direct line exists.

Lord Weatherill

My Lords, I am sure the whole House will be grateful for the Minister's encouraging Statement. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, spoke about the origins of this dispute. I was in the sub-continent of India in 1946. At that time it was clearly understood that those rulers with a majority of Hindu residents would go to India and those with a majority of Muslims would go to Pakistan. It is well known that the Maharajah of Kashmir, Hari Singh, opted to be, and was, independent for a few months, eventually opting to go to India. That is the origin of this dispute.

It was also suggested at that time—I do not know how true it was—that at the very last minute the boundaries between India and Pakistan were moved some 20 miles west which gave India a frontier with Kashmir. That again was a cause for concern at that time.

Although it is important that the American President should be actively involved, it is even more important that the United Nations should be actively involved. The United Nations resolution of 5th January 1949 states: The question of the accession of the State of Jammu & Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite". That is the only solution to the problem. Despite my advanced years, if a plebiscite were to be held may I offer myself as an observer of a totally impartial nature, with affection for both Pakistan and India?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, is not the only noble Lord in this House who has a great deal of detailed knowledge—a great deal more than I have, I confess—about the complex history of this dispute between India and Pakistan. We all recognise that the origins of the dispute are complicated.

I agree with the noble Lord that it is important to recognise the UN Security Council resolution. But it is also important to deal with the situation at present. It is important to move forward in a positive way. I shall bear in mind the noble Lord's offer to be present if by chance a plebiscite comes about.

Lord Greaves

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate rightly reminds us that the world is forgetting the kind of weapons that nuclear weapons represent. The Minister rightly spoke about the information and education programme among communities in this country which have their origins in India and Pakistan. Should not that programme cover the nature of nuclear weapons? It has become clear in recent weeks that young people in particular who have grown up in this country but who have family links with India and Pakistan are ignorant of the nature of nuclear weapons and their effect. An education programme along those lines would be valuable.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for those comments. I shall consider them with colleagues.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, in the event of India being provoked into making a conventional military attack on Pakistan, and if Pakistan's territorial integrity appeared to be threatened by such an attack, does the Minister agree that it is unlikely that any Pakistan government would be able to resist the pressure to use nuclear weapons? I follow the reasoning of the right reverend Prelate. Apart from the catastrophic loss of human life on the subcontinent, the consequence would be seen as legitimising the use of nuclear weapons; and that would lead to their proliferation to an even greater extent. That would gravely undermine the security of the five permanent members of the Security Council which are the long-standing nuclear powers. As that is the fundamental objective of that part of the terrorist world represented by Al'Qaeda, it is probable that Al'Qaeda, as at present, is doing everything possible to provoke such an attack on Pakistan. Do the Government recognise, therefore, that that is part of the international war against terrorism?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, despite the dispute being at root a bilateral matter, I believe I made clear in the Statement the potent international implications. Those are in part the result of the potential scale of any military action. Because in the post-September 11th world there have been new imperatives on member states having to take effective action to counter terrorism, we and our international partners recognise the dual elements of concern.

The noble Lord spoke about what might happen if India engaged in a conventional war. It is important that we do not speculate. At this time we are seeing some positive signs. The diplomacy upon which the whole of the international community is engaged continues. As I said in the Statement, the US Defense Secretary is expected in the region in two days' time. I agree with noble Lords that it is important to continue to raise awareness about the possible effects of the use of nuclear weapons, in particular with young people.

On proliferation, the experience of the United Kingdom, the United States and France is relevant. We in the West and the Warsaw Pact countries raised the bar against nuclear action. The result was that we resolved our differences by peaceful means. We recognise the potential implications. We must also take account of our experience, and the fact that our countries have been able to move forward—for example, only last week, we witnessed a NATO/Russia summit, an EU/Russia summit. In the midst of the Cold War, who would have believed that we would find ourselves in such a position today? I entirely take the noble Lord's point that there is continuing work that needs to be addressed. We must use our experience to ensure that proliferation does not become a reality.

Lord Paul

My Lords, perhaps I may congratulate my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary arid the British High Commissioner in Delhi, Sir Rob Young, for the marvellous job that they, along with their counterparts, have done to reduce the tension that was becoming most frightening. We really need to get both nations to sit down together and find a solution to their problems, instead of going through the history, and so on. They are well aware of the historical background. As long as we continue to stress upon them that war is not the solution I believe that we shall make more progress than if we continue to discuss other matters. Will my noble friend the Minister kindly confirm that that is the direction in which we are trying to push the two countries forward?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I can confirm that that is so. When repeating the Statement, I believe that I made it clear that we do not regard war as a solution. I hope that I also made it clear that we are of the view that it is important for us to deal in a measured way with the situation as we find it at present; that is the core of our strategy.

I thank my noble friend for his kind comments about my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and about the work of our High Commissioner in India.I should like to express my thanks for the work accomplished by our High Commissioner in Pakistan. Indeed, both our High Commissioners have done an excellent job.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, I endorse what my noble friend Lord Paul said about the work of the British High Commissioner in Delhi. I was with two very senior members of the Indian legal profession last night. I mentioned that a Statement was likely to be made today. They, too, said how much the work of the High Commissioner is appreciated in India. Is my noble friend the Minister able to confirm that the advice to British nationals will be kept under more or less constant review? If the situation changes for the better, as we all hope, can she confirm that that advice will be modified? Clearly, it is having a very serious effect on the Indian economy; and, indeed, will have an even more serious effect if it continues for any length of time.

Baroness Amos

Yes, my Lords; I can confirm that our advice is under constant review. As I said earlier, we have already changed the advice three times since 23rd May. Foreign Office staff are engaged in daily discussions with our staff working in the region. This has been a difficult time for our staff. I thank noble Lords for recognising that and the hard work that has been put in.