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I say that against the background of what I believe to be the much more serious situation that has now emergedthat is, what many have suggested is the virtual disappearance of the Durand line. Now, there is almost no border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and people are now talking about the development of Paktunistan. Into this present terrible cocktailwe know that agreement was recently reached by the Pakistan armyis added the fact that in the Pashtun and Baluch areas there is now virtually no rule of government law. Policy is directed as though we are dealing with Governments who have sovereign power over all the territories that are currently defined as their borders, but that makes the situation for our forces in Helmand much graver and more difficult. I do not wish to be too apocalyptic about it but I have heard the leaders of both Pakistan and Afghanistan described as being in a sense more like the lord mayors of their capital cities than rulers with power and responsibility over the whole of their countries. That makes the situation extremely challenging.
It is against that background that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, referred to the dislike of the invader and foreign occupation. We know about the Russian situation. Some of us will remember or know somebody who lives on in a senior position. Bob Gates was, in an earlier incarnation, head of the CIA. In his memoir, which he published in 1996, he referred to the final departure of the Russians, saying that at last Afghanistan was free of the foreign invader. Now the new Secretary for Defence in the Obama Administration, Bob Gates has to face up to exactly the challenge that he previously recognised in the difficult position of the Russians at that time.
I pick up on the point made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, about al-Qaeda. I wonder to what extent this is still an al-Qaeda problem, and whether al-Qaeda is, in some ways, marginalised. How will the situation develop in Helmand province and the border areas of Pakistan, where al-Qaeda is seen, in a sense, as a foreign invader? It seems to me that that is what happened in Iraq. In the end, the Iraqis decided that they did not want al-Qaedas presence and activities, as they had in the past. Against this background, I look to see what approaches we can make. Above all, this needs an international approach. We certainly need a co-operative approach from Russia, or we could face serious problems as to how we supply our forces in Afghanistan, in view of recent developments in Pakistan. Russia, China, Iran and India have a keen interest in the stability of the area and must undoubtedly be seriously worried about the challenges that are now developing.
Against that background, I certainly welcome the constructive approach of President Obama. I hope that it will lead to constructive discussions with each of the countries concerned. I hope that there will be constructive discussions with Iran; there are areas in which we are able to have very helpful and constructive relations. I recall the number of serving members of the Iranian Army who lost their lives in trying to prevent drug traffic out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, through Iran and into Europe. China, which now faces the gravest of economic problems, has a keen interest in
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I hope that the plea that has come from so many speakers today will be heard. As a former Secretary of State for Defence, I am well aware of the importance of jaw, jaw and the role of the Foreign Office, exactly as my noble friend Lord Hurd, with whom I had the honour and privilege of working on many occasions, said. I always saw those of us in Defence as being very much at the service of the Foreign Office, with military might and the iron fist available very much as second-best. The leadership of the Foreign Office and our effective foreign policy was much the best way forward.
The tragedy is that defence has not been a powerful ally in support of an effective foreign policy. The tragedy of recent years is that events in Iraq and Afghanistan have underlined the limitations of military power and, in that way, undermined the effectiveness of the position that we can adopt in our foreign policy and the influence that we could bring to bear. We are undermined by recent events and the limitations that have been shown on military power. Undoubtedly, the economic situation of this country also means that substantial improvement in the funding of our Armed Forces and defence will be extremely difficult. That will also pose considerable limitations on what we are able to do to tackle those situations. Against that background, maximum international co-operation will be essential for our country if we are to make any progress in the difficult and dangerous challenges that we will face in the future.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, this is a particularly appropriate moment to consider new challenges in foreign policy. Perhaps the most challenging and, I hope, encouraging, is the opportunity presented by a new President of the United States and the extent to which Her Majestys Government and our European partners can respond to that opportunity by supporting the apparent readiness of President Obama to depart from what one commentator has described as,
It is incompetence with which British Ministers, over the past eight years, have too readily associated themselves, without much benefit to British or international interests. I propose today to touch briefly on the two subjects of dialogue and diplomacy, both of which have been touched on by several noble Lords, most particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, in that remarkable introduction to the debate.
As to dialogue, I have spoken oftentoo often, many may thinkin this House about the need to be ready, as we have in the past, to talk to those with whom we disagree, whether they are so-called terrorists or unfriendly regimes. In that context, I draw the attention of the House to a remarkable letter in todays Timesabout the need to talk to Hamas, signed byamong othersthe noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, and, most remarkably, a
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I hope that we can support and encourage President Obama in his proclaimed readiness to enter into contact with Iran, a contact that President Ahmadinejad has welcomed, provided Iran is treated with due respect. This proviso is hardly surprising when we recall that President Khatamis readiness to talk and the outpouring of sympathy from the Iranian population after 9/11 were greeted by President Bushs decision to brand Iran as part of the axis of evil. It remains to be seen how the Iranians react to the appointment of Dennis Ross as President Obamas special adviser on the Gulf. The press has already cast some doubt on the wisdom of that appointment.
As for diplomacy, many in this House have deplored the repeated failure of the Bush Administration to make adequate use of their highly experienced professional diplomats. Apart from the fact that the United States system still provides for a large number of embassies to be offered as a reward for political or financial support, the top hamper of the State Department itself still suffers a virtual renewal with every change of Administration.
The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, spoke eloquently about the dangers of reducing our Diplomatic Service. As a postscript, I add that the noble Lord has spoken too modestly about his failure to take external expertise sufficiently into account. I remember well two remarkable seminars on Germany and the Soviet Union, which the noble Lord arranged as Foreign Secretary and in which a significant group of academics played a very large role.
It will not surprise your Lordships if, as a former head of the Diplomatic ServiceI do not know whether I should also describe myself as a lively exhibitI urge Ministers to continue to support our professional service. It is a service which, as I know well and as others have said, has been the envy, and I suspect still is the envy, of many other countries. International relations is about more than giving aid. I do not grudge the financial support, indeed munificence, made available to the Department for International Development, but I believe it is time to correct what has become a serious imbalance between aid and diplomacy. We have in our Diplomatic Service a unique resource for pursuing and promoting our national and international interests, not only in our bilateral relationships which still need constant attention even in this age of globalisation and instant communication, but also in the leading role our diplomats play in a wide variety of international institutions, whether it be the European Union, the United Nations or the Commonwealth.
Perhaps I may pick up one point made by both the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Lord, Lord King, about relationships between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence. I should like to take a rather belated opportunity to thank the noble and gallant Lord for the way in which he paid considerable attention to that relationship when he was Chief of the Defence Staff and I was Permanent Under-Secretary in the Foreign
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I hope that when the Minister comes to reply, he will feel able to confirm the Governments continuing commitment to a global foreign policy and a readiness to provide adequate resources to enable Her Majestys Diplomatic Service to fulfil that commitment. Finally, I regard it as a real privilege to have taken part in a quite exceptional debate, and I echo the hope of the noble Lord, Lord McNallyI mean this seriouslythat the Minister will draw the Hansard account of this debate to the attention of both the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Secretary of State for Defence.
Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for this debate. I wish to take this opportunity to raise the profile of Latin America, where there are plenty of challenges relating to foreign policy. As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary British-Latin American Group, I will take this opportunity to ensure that such an important part of the world is not forgotten. Unfortunately, the ambassadors to the UK from the Latin American countries feel that their countries have been placed somewhat on the back-burner in recent years. Inevitably, with fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the events in Gaza and the Middle East more generally, Latin America is not exactly on the front pages of our newspapers or on our television screens. Moreover, it does not help us with our Latin American friends when we close our embassies in their countries, thus signalling as far as they are concerned the lessening of their importance, to say nothing of the added workload for those of our ambassadors who are out in the field, flying the flag on our behalf. In my view, closing embassies has been a retrograde step, which, as a country, we may well yet come to deeply regret.
Latin America, as I am sure my noble friend knows well, could provide business and investment opportunities for UK companies which may be curtailed in other parts of the world. Certainly Brazil stands out as a country wide open with opportunities for UK businesses, as the Brazilian ambassador always emphasises. Perhaps my noble friend can give his assessment of how the UK is investing in Latin America, especially in Brazil, and what the Government are doing to encourage such investment. I emphasise UK investment because at the last annual general meeting of the all-party group we had in attendance 18 ambassadors from Latin American countries both large and small. Investment was high on all their agendas, together with at that time questions surrounding changes in our migration rules and the restrictions that these were placing on citizens from Latin American countries. I understand that aspects of the latter are still under discussion with the Government. The former remains vital to both the UK and our friends in Latin America.
I turn now to a specific Latin American country. I have just returned from Bolivia, where I was part of a delegation to La Paz and Santa Cruz organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. This organisation, headed so ably by Kenneth Courtenay, is invaluable in furthering relationships between the UK and different countries across the world. Since taking over as chair of the all-party group, I have been in the fortunate position of seeing this work at close quarters and admiring the expertise and dedication of Ken and his colleagues. Our visit to Bolivia was no exception. We met the Bolivian vice-president, the presidents of both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, the Foreign Minister, the president of the new human rights commission and the ombudsman. We also met with NGOs and representatives of indigenous people from different parts of the country.
The politicians took an early opportunity to raise an important issue for them and, in turn, I shall raise it today. They expressed their deep concern about the UK Governments recent decision to require Bolivian citizens wishing to visit the UK to have a visa to enter this country. The Bolivian Government emphasised that Bolivians travelling here are neither delinquents nor criminals, but in Bolivian eyes they are being treated as such. The Bolivian Government want to know why Bolivia and Venezuela have been singled out over visas when other Latin American countries have not had such a requirement placed on them. Perhaps my noble friend could explain to the House the Governments thinking behind the visa decision.
It was an interesting and exciting time to be visiting Bolivia, which is the poorest and least developed of all the Latin American countries. Some 64 per cent of the population live below the poverty line; this figure rises to 80 per cent in the rural areas. President Evo Morales was first elected to power in January 2006. His manifesto included enhancing the social welfare of the majority of Bolivians, especially children and the elderly; enhancing the political rights of those Bolivians who are of indigenous descent and who have long been excluded from decision-making processes; and entering into new relationships with the main foreign companies and increasing their tax contributions, particularly from gas resources. As the indigenous people are in the majority in Bolivia, the measures affecting them are particularly popular.
President Morales himself is the first indigenous Bolivian president, having been elected to a five-year term of office. In August 2008, he won a recall referendum with 67 per cent of the vote and, on 25 January this year, he called a further referendum on the text of a new constitution. Participation in this was over 90 per cent and international observers confirmed that it was conducted freely and fairly. The yes option won by over 61 per cent of the valid votes counted. The number of politicians now in favour of the constitution stands at 73 per cent because the opposition parties have split and 12 per cent of those opposition politicians have pledged to support the Government in their aims for constitutional change. Of course the implementation of the constitution will not be plain sailing and opposition will undoubtedly continue, especially from Podemos, the main opposition party. However, once the genie is out of the lamp, things can never be quite the same
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in other words, renegotiating existing contracts. Last Wednesday, we visited the gas plant of BG Bolivia, La Vertiente, in the Tarija district. The plant has been nationalised by the Government, which means that the Bolivian state now owns 51 per cent of it. The Bolivian Government have established a new national company whose duty is to oversee gas extraction. However, we were told that there are not enough people employed to carry out this task properly, which hampers negotiations and creates frustrations. A great deal of suspicion in Bolivia about foreigners involved in the extraction industries has built up over the years. Against this background, some members of the delegation, including me, feared the worst when it came to discussing the renegotiation of the contract between the Bolivian Government and BG Bolivia. However, in our briefing we were told that in the last four months there has been a lot of progress and that they are,
President Morales has met personally with BG Bolivia representatives on a number of occasions and asked for a further meeting in the near future. It is to be hoped that this is a positive position from which a new and positive relationship can develop. Perhaps the Minister can comment on this.
In the time available, it has been possible to give only a flavour of Bolivia in its new phase, but I know that your Lordships will wish for the good bilateral relationships that we have with Bolivia and all Latin American countries to continue.
Lord Chidgey: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for securing this debate and giving me the opportunity to talk about foreign policy challenges in the Great Lakes region of Africa, following on from the overview provided by the noble Baroness, Lady Amos. I want to refer, in particular, to recent developments discussed in Uganda in meetings with government Ministers, opposition party leaders and local MPs during parliamentary workshops held in Kampala last week. I record our gratitude to the Prime Minister of Uganda, Professor Apolo Nsibambi, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Oryem Henry Okello, Dr Latigo, the leader of the Opposition in the Ugandan Parliament, and many senior parliamentarians for the detailed briefing that they gave us during our short visit.
Noble Lords will know of my interests in strengthening democracy in the region in my role as the vice-chairman of the Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group and as a council member for the UK Parliament with AWEPA.
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The reason for concentrating on Uganda is that it is the centre of a region that has for decades suffered fraudulent elections, tyranny, civil wars, rebellion, terrorism, mass torture, genocide, forced migration and the creation of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons. Not one of the regions states, which include the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, has remained unscathed in that time. Yet it is self-evident that the success or failure of developing democratic, transparent and accountable governance will determine the stability of that region and thus of a major part of the African continent. We know that securing that success presents a major policy challenge to the nation states, the regional political institutions and the major donor nations, in particular the United Kingdom. To the west and north of the region, in the DRC and in southern Sudan, the situation remains grimly volatile. In Kenya to the east, the violence that followed the recent elections generated uncertainty and instability. In the heart of the region lies Uganda, a country that suffered 40 years of coups, dictatorships and guerrilla war, resulting in 1 million Ugandans killed, 500,000 seriously injured and 2 million uprooted as refugees.
Your Lordships will be aware that for more than two decades the rebel Lords Resistance Army has terrorised great swathes of the Congo, southern Sudan and Uganda. The conflict in northern Uganda is one of the longest running and most brutal in Africa, with thousands of children abducted to become child soldiers and more than 1 million internally displaced people in refugee camps. Peace talks between the Government and the LRA broke down last year when the LRAs leader, Joseph Kony, refused to sign for fear of an International Criminal Court warrant issued against him. This ran contrary to previous statements made by the LRA that its members would be willing to face trial. With the ICCs chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, insisting on Konys arrest, it seems unlikely that the indictment will be dropped. The LRA has resumed attacks on communities along the DRC-Sudan border, with reports of horrific violence, atrocities and the abduction of over 150 children to be recruited into the LRAs ranks. As many as 50,000 people are thought to have been displaced in the affected areas.
In mid-December, Uganda, the DRC and southern Sudan launched a combined military offensive on LRA positions. Although this initiative, named Operation Lightning Thunder, is now recognised not to have quite lived up to its name, it is nevertheless thought to have splintered the LRA forces into several groups totalling at most a few hundred. In any event, at present Uganda has an agreement that its armed forces actions in the Congo may continue until the LRA leadership is captured or killed, effectively destroying the rebels as a force. It now seems probable that the remnants of the LRA are trapped in the north-eastern corner of the DRC and are likely to surrender.
Ugandan government Ministers, however, have made it clear that such is the trauma suffered by their people in the impoverished northern region of Uganda that normality will not be achieved until the threat of the return of Kony and his cronies is finally removed. Government Ministers stressed to us their determination that Kony and his second and third in command, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen, should first be put on trial in a court constructed for that purpose in Uganda. Only then would they be handed over to the International Criminal Court to face any charges of war crimes. Can the Minister in his response or later tell your Lordships House whether Her Majestys Government think that there is adequate scope in the Ugandan domestic justice system to try LRA fighters and commanders and thus suspend the ICC indictments? Do Her Majestys Government feel that they can do anything to ensure that the process is seen and demonstrated to be credible?
What steps are our Government considering with the Ugandan Government to facilitate more defections from the LRAs ranks and to support those who have defected as part of an embassy programme? What measures are Her Majestys Government taking to support the Governments of the region in their efforts to find and arrest Joseph Kony? What actions are our Government proposing to ensure that adequate protection and assistance is given to those civilians affected, or terrorised, by recent LRA attacks? What is the Governments response to the concerns that the UN force in the DRC does not have sufficient capacity to protect civilians at risk of attack in the northern DRC?
Our discussions in Kampala with Ugandan parliamentarians showed that there is a real fear that the LRA will be able to return to northern Uganda itself. If Kony were able to send even a few elements of his forces back to that area for just a short period, this would be hugely destabilising for the ongoing process. Such a scenario will not have been lost on Kony.
The Prime Minister of Uganda, Professor Apolo Nsibambi, is responsible for planning a $600 million reconstruction budget with international donors. This programme is needed to resettle the north once Konys rebels are finally defeated. The challenge is the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons still in the camps in the north, of which some 20 per cent are orphaned children, disabled adults or elderly infirm, who will be very hard to resettle.
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