HC Deb 06 November 1962 vol 666 cc55-7W
Q16. Mr. Donnelly

asked the Prime Minister what communication he has received from President Nkrumah regarding the supply of arms to India; and what is the nature of the reply that he has sent.

The Prime Minister

President Nkrumah sent me a message on 31st October, to which I replied on the same day; both messages were published. I received a further message from him on 1st November (which was published) and replied to this in a personal and confidential message on 2nd November. I am circulating the texts of the published messages in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

1. Following is the text of the message of 31st October from Dr. Nkrumah, President of Ghana, to the Prime Minister: I was gravely distressed and saddened to hear the report of your statement to the British House of Commons that the British Government will give India every support in her fight against China. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the present struggle between India and China I am sure that we can all serve the cause of peace best by refraining from any action that may aggravate the unfortunate situation. Are you sure that by giving support whatever this is to one side against the other you will be able to increase the chances of bringing an end to hostilities? Assistance by way of arms and equipment to any country engaged in a conflict with another in my view is likely merely to occasion a counter offer of assistance to the other party to the dispute. The balance of military strength therefore remains the same but dispute is made much more difficult of solution through the involvement of outside Powers. Experience has shown that resort to arms and the employment of power politics have been the main cause of mounting tensions in the world. Let us therefore look at the problems that confront the world today with new eyes and in a new spirit of conciliation, mutual understanding and unflinching respect for the preservation of peace. I have been in touch with Mr. Chou-en-lai and Mr. Nehru in an effort to find a basis acceptable to both sides for terminating the present conflict. Let us pursue these moves in the hope that the two sides can reach a settlement leading to the restoration of peace between them. 2. Following is the text of the message of 31st October from the Prime Minister to the President of Ghana: I have just received your message about my statement in the House of Commons on the hostilities between China and India. I find it difficult to understand your objection to what I said. When the territory of a Commonwealth people is invaded, it is surely only right and natural that we should express to them our sympathy and support in their anxiety and danger. Since you published your message to me, I am likewise publishing this reply. 3. Following is the text of the message of 1st November from Dr. Nkrumah, President of Ghana, to the Prime Minister: Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter of yesterday. I am sorry, however, that you should suggest that I am objecting to the expression of British sympathy towards another Commonwealth country. What distressed me was your statement that the British Government would give India every support. This appeared to me to be dangerously prejudging the issue and shutting the door in the face of any possible mediation or negotiation. The Commonwealth is not a military alliance, and it would be most detrimental to its progress if the impression were created that Commonwealth members did not judge each issue independently on its merits but instead automatically sided with a fellow Commonwealth country when that country was engaged in a dispute with an outside Power. Examination of the voting records of India and Ghana in the United Nations shows that on all leading issues such as the need for non-alignment, the ending of colonialism and racial discrimination and the peaceful settlement of disputes, both countries have almost always independently come to the same conclusions. I should have thought therefore that the friendship between Ghana and India was a matter of record and clearly the cordial relationship between India and Ghana is beyond dispute. But this is not the issue. The present serious and critical situation between India and China could constitute a dangerous threat to world peace. In this circumstance it is surely our duty to do nothing to aggravate or prolong the conflict, but to do everything which in our power lies to secure a speedy settlement of the dispute. Normally this could be achieved through the machinery of the United Nations. Unhappily, China is excluded from her rightful place in that organisation. For this reason any dispute involving China is much more difficult of solution. If China is excluded from the world forum where her side of the dispute might he examined, then surely all of us have a particular obligation to refrain from doing anything which shows that we are condemning her unheard. On the contrary, it is necessary to devise new machinery outside the United Nations which can perform the same function as the United Nations is performing in the Cuban issue. In my view a particular responsibility devolves on those countries who have diplomatic relations with both India and the Chinese People's Republic. These countries could take the initiative in seeking a peaceful and honourable solution to the present dispute. The effectiveness of their action, however, is prejudiced if any among their number prejudge the issue by making public announcements in favour of one or other side to the dispute. Britain is one of the most important of the great powers which recognises both sides and she could in my view play an important role in securing a solution which is agreeable to both India and China. I myself am doing what I con in this matter, but obviously any efforts which I can make would be most powerfully assisted if a group of nations determined not to prejudge the issue, were to come forward and offer their good offices in seeking a settlement.