To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he proposes to take to help bring about a solution to the conflict in Kashmir.
We take every opportunity of impressing on the Government of India our concerns over human rights in regard to Kashmir, and the need for a political process there, and on the Government of Pakistan the need to prevent material support being given to the men of violence in Kashmir.
When does the Minister expect the Indian Government to respond positively to the proposals made last year by this Government that international independent organisations should be allowed in to investigate violations of human rights? Serious violations of human rights in Kashmir are reported daily and they affect many of the families and relatives of our constituents.
The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to those problems. Human rights abuses are totally unacceptable wherever they come from, whether from terrorists or, as they have undoubtedly come, from the security forces of the Indian Government—although there has been much exaggeration about that. We have emphasised to the Indian Government the need to respond to those terrorist threats by respecting human rights and the rule of law. We are encouraged by their decision to establish an independent human rights commission and I talked to the high commissioner about that only two weeks ago.
Is it not basically an internal matter for India? What moral support can we give India in resolving that tragic and long-standing problem?
Of course, as my hon. Friend knows, we are friends of the Indian and Pakistan peoples and we wish to maintain that friendship. We are balanced on that important issue. We know that it must be resolved. It is a serious problem which has led to three wars in very recent memory and we will do anything that we can. However, any intervention on our part must be with the agreement of both sides.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his bromidic utterances this afternoon contrast markedly with the encouragement that the Foreign Secretary gave to Kashmiri voters in Luton when he was seeking to rustle up Conservative votes there—that this Government were going to try to do something specific to deal with a problem that has lasted far too long, has resulted in many deaths on both sides and serious violations of human rights and in respect of which the United Kingdom has a unique role and responsibility?
The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. The Government's position has not changed. We make our views absolutely clear. I am happy to follow every word that my right hon. Friend has said. May I also add that when he went to India he insisted on the need for a political process in Kashmir. That is also fundamental and we stand by that position.
Is it not the case that, apart from the efforts being made with the Indian Government, some pressure ought to be put on the United Nations, bearing in mind that two Security Council resolutions—the first dated April 1948 and the second dated January 1949—still guarantee that the Kashmiri people shall have a plebiscite on their future? Why can we not put pressure on the United Nations on the matter?
As my hon. Friend knows, those resolutions are about 40 years old, a lot of water has flown under the bridge since then and there were also resolutions calling for a plebiscite for the state of Jammu and Kashmir to decide whether to accede to India or to Pakistan; the question of independence was not at issue. We believe that some political process to enable the Kashmiri people to state their wishes for the future is the way forward.