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South-East Asia

Volume 515: debated on Tuesday 14 September 2010

South-east Asia includes some of the world’s most important emerging powers, and offers huge opportunities for the United Kingdom. The Government enjoy excellent relations with most countries in the region. Burma is the exception, but we continue to work for democratic change so that its people can realise their potential.

Does the Minister not agree that our relationship has been uniquely enhanced by the recent visit by a trade delegation to the Indian subcontinent, and also by the fact that the United Kingdom has been at the forefront of alleviating the floods and stress facing the Pakistani population?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the subject of the Prime Minister’s recent visit to India. It was a huge success, and has greatly enhanced our bilateral relationship. In particular, I warmly welcome the broadly based trade and investment agreement between India and the European Union. As for the Pakistani floods, our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the victims, but I am pleased to say that the Department for International Development has responded very positively by providing £64 million of aid.

I do not regard deciding to attack Pakistan when in India as a great foreign policy triumph, particularly on the part of a Prime Minister of this country.

When we were in government, we took every opportunity to highlight and campaign against the horrendous human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese regime, to demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 political prisoners, and to apply maximum pressure on the international community to challenge that regime. May I ask the Minister what his Government are doing to put pressure on the Burmese regime? Does he accept that the November elections were entirely illegitimate, and that there is a flawed constitution? Can he tell us what progress is being made on an arms embargo against the Burmese regime, and will he guarantee no dilution of the BBC’s World Service output in Burma?

That was three questions, but I know the Minister will be able to provide a single pithy reply.

The Prime Minister recently met the Foreign Secretaries of India and China to express our concern about Burma and to urge them to use their good offices to push for change. I certainly agree with the shadow Minister, because for elections to take place on 7 November and to be credible in any way Aung San Suu Kyi must be released, as well as 2,100 other political prisoners.