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Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the UK's relationship with (a) India, (b) Bangladesh and (c) Pakistan. [131008]

:This Government attaches great importance to the South Asian region as a whole.The UK and India work together on regional and global issues, poverty relief, trade and investment, science and the environment. The shared vision was set out in the New Delhi Declaration of January 2002. There has been a series of high-level visits to and from India. Outward visits have been made by: my right hon. Friends the Deputy Prime Minister; the Foreign Secretary; and Secretaries of State for Defence; Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Culture: Trade and Industry; and the then Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short). We have received recent inward visits from Indian Ministers including the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defence Minister.The UK and Bangladesh regularly engage on all levels and there have been a number of high profile visits between our two countries, including that of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Dhaka in January 2002, and that of the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister, Morshed Khan, to London in May 2003.Our bilateral relationship with Pakistan is close. Our relationship has been strengthened by the initiatives launched by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Islamabad in the judicial, commercial and defences spheres. We very much welcomed the official visit to the UK in June 2003 by President Musharraf.The large number of British nationals of South Asian origin play a major part in Britain's economy and culture and strengthen the partnerships we share with India,Bangladesh, and Pakistan.