Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.
Mr. Eamon Ryan
Minister for Foreign Affairs
the steps the Government has initiated at the UN Security Council to ease the crisis between Pakistan and India; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Foreign Affairs
the Government's view on the conflict between India and Pakistan regarding Kashmir; the steps the Government is taking to promote a peaceful settlement having regard to the dangers of full scale conflict involving the possible use of nuclear weapons; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. G. Mitchell
Minister for Foreign Affairs
if he will make a statement on the current situation in India and Pakistan.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 52 and 72 together.
I welcome this opportunity to make a statement to the Dáil on the current situation in India-Pakistan. Since I last made a statement to the Dáil on this issue, in February, tensions in the region have escalated considerably. As deputies will be aware, the two countries came extremely close to the brink of war. I am relieved to report that tensions have decreased somewhat, although the situation remains very serious.
Against this background, last weekend, EU Heads of State and Government, meeting in Seville, issued a strong message of concern that the situation remains precarious and that the consequences of a break-out of war could be devastating for the region, and beyond. With the full support of the Government, the Seville Council called on Pakistan to take further concrete action in accordance with the assurances it has already given and with its international obligations, including UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), to stop infiltration across the line of control and to prevent terrorist groups from operating from territory under its control, also through closing of training camps. The European Council called on India and Pakistan to establish an effective monitoring system, in a form acceptable to both, so as to stop infiltration. The Council encouraged India to be ready to respond with further de-escalatory steps as Pakistan shows that it is acting to fulfil its commitments. The European Council noted the importance of free, fair and inclusive elections this autumn in Jammu and Kashmir. The European Council called on both parties to adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The Council further confirmed the EU's commitment to work with India and Pakistan and with others in the international community, seeking for possible confidence-building measures in order to defuse the immediate crisis, and to continue to encourage both countries to achieve a lasting settlement of the differences between them through bilateral dialogue. The current crisis was precipitated and exacerbated by a series of atrocities in both countries. In India, Pakistan-based militants targeted the Parliament in December, and Indian-controlled Kashmir in May, which resulted in 30 dead. Further attacks were carried out by militants in Karachi, in oppo sition to President Musharraf's attempts to clamp down on their activities, including an attack in May in which French citizens were among those killed, an attack on a US cultural centre, and most recently, an attack on the US consulate there.
These atrocities increased the tension in the region, resulting in a massive military build-up along the India-Pakistan border and the threatened use of nuclear weapons, with potentially devastating consequences for the region and beyond. A series of key visits to the region were made by US Secretary of State Powell, EU Commissioner Patten, UK Foreign Secretary Straw, US Assistant Secretary of State Rocca, US Deputy Secretary of State Armitage and US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld. These contacts have resulted in a series of recent, de-escalatory steps by the Governments of Pakistan and India.
In his visit to the region, at the beginning of June, US Envoy Richard Armitage secured a commitment from President Musharraf to order an end to infiltration across the border with India. Soon after, the US was able to back this up by intelligence reports that infiltration was substantially down. India responded with a number of measures aimed at reducing tension. However, India remains deeply sceptical about Pakistan's assurances, and continues to press for the closure of terrorist training camps.
As a result, both sides remain fully-mobilised along the border. In this climate, there is a real risk that any further incidents, such as crossborder incursions, could spark an outbreak of hostilities, with grave consequences. The Government remains highly concerned that the current situation presents one of the most serious threats to international peace and security today. Ireland has made these concerns known to representatives of both Governments, both here in Dublin and in New York, New Delhi and Islamabad. Our Ambassador to Pakistan recently presented his credentials in Islamabad to President Musharraf and Foreign Minister Sattar, and took that opportunity to outline our views to them.
The Taoiseach has met and discussed the situation in recent days with Afghan President Karzai and Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, and I also discussed developments with US Special Envoy Haass. At the UN, the Kashmir issue has not been discussed in the Security Council, as India, with the support of Russia in the P5, traditionally views the matter as an internal one. This position has extended to an objection by India to any discussion by the Security Council of the current tensions, even in an informal setting. Arising from this position, there is a view among some Members that a discussion in the Security Council at this time could be counter-productive. Every effort has been made to pursue progress through other channels, and so far these have been most effective, as demonstrated by the positive developments in the region.
Ireland's view is that, given the seriousness of the situation and the potential consequences for international peace and security of any further escalation in tensions, the Security Council should, as appropriate, discuss the matter. It is our hope, therefore, that in time, and in a manner acceptable to both sides, the issue will be addressed by the Security Council. In the meantime, Ireland is taking a pragmatic approach to the situation and encouraging the use of those channels of international diplomacy which have been so far most successful in defusing tensions. Ireland has noted the general support among Council members for the intensive bilateral diplomacy under way on the part of those States best placed to influence the parties, without ruling out formal Council consideration should the situation suffer a sharp deterioration.
An important initiative was taken by Asian and European Ministers in early June when they expressed their solidarity on this issue for the first time. The Foreign Ministers of the 15 EU member states, including Ireland, and 10 Asian Nations, meeting in Madrid at the ASEM Foreign Ministers' meeting, jointly urged India and Pakistan to reverse the present spiral of confrontation with unpredictable consequences, and to resume immediate dialogue.
Over the coming months, Ireland will continue to carefully monitor the situation in the region, in particular in the light of the up-coming elections in Jammu and Kashmir. We will continue to seek, through the most acceptable and effective channels available, a further reduction in tension on both sides, and as soon as possible, a de-mobilisation of troops on both sides. Ireland, along with the EU, will stand ready to support this process in any way possible.