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Volume 606: debated on Tuesday 23 February 2016

I much appreciate the right hon. Gentleman’s courtesy in notifying me of his travel plans. I know that he has only relatively recently got off a plane, so we are delighted to have him here, especially in view of the fact, of which he has previously informed the House, that he is responsible for three quarters of the world.

Mr Speaker, you have just stolen my first line again.

On this important subject, it is, I repeat, for India and Pakistan to find a lasting resolution to the situation in Kashmir, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people. It is not for the UK to prescribe a solution or to act as a mediator.

Undoubtedly, this House has a great deal of respect for UN resolutions, and I am sure the Minister is aware that in 1948 the UN Security Council passed resolution 47 instructing the Governments of India and Pakistan to prepare for a plebiscite to determine the future of Kashmir. Almost 70 years have passed, thousands of Kashmiri men, women and children have been slaughtered, atrocities are committed daily, yet there is still no sign of any action to allow these people to vote on this most important issue. Does the Minister agree that the people of Kashmir should have the right to self-determination, and will he give an assurance—

Will the Minister assure us that the British Government will do everything in their power to make that happen?

We do not intend to support an international conference or plebiscite on Kashmir. Our long-standing position is that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting resolution. We are acutely aware of the allegations of human rights abuses in Kashmir. This was discussed with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when Prime Minister Modi was here in November 2015, and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

Many of my constituents who are of Kashmiri origin and heritage take the view that this entire problem was left behind by the UK when we ruled that area. Does the Minister not feel that there is an obligation on the UK to take a more proactive role and to do something positive to bring about a resolution to this long-running problem?

My hon. Friend will be aware that we are talking about two sovereign countries, India and Pakistan. It is not for the United Kingdom to come between them, other than to urge them to talk. There are some good moves and communications between the leaders of Pakistan and India and they are discussing the subject, among other things, which we very much welcome.

But I would say to the Minister that the situation has been going on for decades, and the UK has some expertise in building more peaceful settlements. Is there not a bit more that the UK could do to promote confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan, and at the very least raise this as a priority with the EU special representative so that some of our other allies know that this is more of a priority?

We do things as best we can without getting directly involved, and we welcome the fact that on 25 December Prime Minister Modi visited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan, the first such visit for 11 years. That must be good news, but the hon. Gentleman knows full well the long-standing position of the Government—and when he was in government the position was no different—that this is a matter for the Indians and the Pakistanis to resolve, not the United Kingdom.