Thursday, 15 July 1971
Dáil Eireann Debate
That a supplementary sum not exceeding £40,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1972, for contributions to the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations, Intergovernment Legal Bodies and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; and for other expenses in connection therewith.
The additional sums under the Vote for International Co-operation are required for a special contribution of £40,000 towards international efforts for the relief of distress in India and Pakistan resulting from the situation in East Pakistan. Of this amount £20,000 will be contributed to the United Nations High Commission for  Refugees (UNHCR) and £20,000 to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Deputies are by now only too well aware of the desperate plight of the victims of the civil war in Pakistan. It is, indeed, a profound tragedy that this man-made disaster should follow so soon after the tidal disaster of almost unprecedented proportions, which the people of East Pakistan suffered last November. It will be recalled that at that time the Irish Red Cross Society sent £5,000 worth of relief supplies to Pakistan and that at the end of March the Dáil voted 25,000 dollars for an emergency contribution to UNICEF for its relief and rehabilitation programme for women and children in the tidal disaster areas.
The present tragic situation bringing strife, death and destruction has aroused world-wide concern for the plight of the enormous number of refugees who have poured from East Pakistan into India during the past three months and are now estimated at over 6,000,000 people. They belong to every religious persuasion of the region—Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian. They come from every social class and age group. When it is recalled that this massive influx has occurred in an area where there is already a very great demographic problem, Deputies will have some idea of the immensity and complexity of the situation.
On 19th May last, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, at the request of the Government of India, earnestly appealed on behalf of the United Nations family to Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations as well as private sources to help meet the urgent needs for humanitarian assistance in the present tragic situation. The Secretary-General announced at the same time that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would act as the focal point for the co-ordination of assistance for all the organisations from the UN system for refugees from East Pakistan in India. From the beginning of the trouble in East Pakistan the Secretary-General was  also in touch with the Government of Pakistan about the provision of humanitarian assistance. That Government indicated their requirements to him on 22nd May. There is an immediate and continuing need for vast supplies of food and clothing and the provision of shelter. Many refugees are also in need of urgent medical attention. Thankfully the cholera epidemic which threatened the area and which has claimed thousands of lives appears to be under a measure of control at this stage. With the onset of the monsoon rains the threat of pneumonia has become very real and is imposing a further strain on the already overburdened facilities.
The Government have considered it desirable to respond as generously as possible to the appeal of the Secretary-General and accordingly they announced on 10th June that they had decided to pledge, subject to Dáil approval, £50,000 towards the international efforts for the relief of distress in India and in East Pakistan resulting from the situation in East Pakistan.
Of that amount the Government propose to contribute £20,000 to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), £20,000 to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and £10,000 to the Irish Red Cross Society. In addition the Minister for Agriculture is arranging to provide through the world food programme a further contribution of £50,000 in cash and kind for relief of distress in the area. This brings the total of Government aid for the relief of the victims of the strife in East Pakistan to a total of £100,000. The Government, of course, also contribute to the annual budgets of a number of international aid organisations, including those I have mentioned, and a portion of their regular budgets is also being used for the relief of the refugees.
I should also like to mention that substantial aid has been provided by the Churches in Ireland and by voluntary bodies and other private sources throughout the country. It is only right that I should express appreciation of the generous response on the part of the Irish people to this tragic refugee problem.
 The response made by Government and non-governmental organisations has been notable. By 1st July over 46 million dollars in cash and in kind had been pledged to the High Commissioner's fund. The amount in cash and in kind, paid, delivered or pledged by Governments on a bi-lateral basis and by non-governmental agencies, was estimated as of 10th July at 114 million dollars bringing the total effort announced by the international community on behalf of the refugees from East Pakistan in India to a total of 160.5 million dollars.
Red Cross aid for the suffering refugees is being channelled by the League of the Red Cross Societies to support a programme being carried out by the Indian Red Cross Society at the request of the Indian Government. In response to the appeal by the League the various National Societies had, up to the end of June, contributed over £1.4 million in cash and materials. The Irish Red Cross Society have already contributed £8,000 to the League and have forwarded medicines valued at £2,250 to the Indian Red Cross Society. The Government's contribution of £10,000 will enable the Irish Red Cross Society to offer further aid for the relief efforts.
The first priority in the present tragic situation is to get aid to those who are suffering and to do so in ways that will not sharpen the political animosities that exist. However, it is essential that a permanent solution be found to the problem and the means by which the refugees can return to their homes, without fear be relentlessly sought.
I am sure Deputies will agree that consistent with the need for human solidarity and international co-operation in the face of so great a refugee problem, the people of this country would wish the Government to respond on their behalf to the appeal of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The passing of these Supplementary Estimates will be a practical indication of the sympathy and concern felt in this country for the plight of the refugees from East Pakistan.
Mr. Ryan: This Dáil will, of course, give unanimous support to the proposal  of the Government to donate £50,000 to the relief of refugees from East Pakistan. As we do so, let us not for a moment be smug or complacent about the position. We are making a contribution which on present known figures of refugees, who in India alone are now believed to number nearly 7,000,000, is less than 1p per head for each of those refugees. The Indian Government from their own resources and sources of help available to them, are spending about 4s per day on each of those refugees, so that some idea of the insignificance of our contribution can quickly be seen.
The problem in Asia particularly in the Indian and Pakistani regions is one of a very serious and disturbing nature. There we have a situation in which millions of people are already living on the precipice of death because of chronic disease, hunger, undernourishment and exposure to the elements. It is tragic indeed in such a depressed area, in which the forces of nature make living harsh, that man through folly or greed should now have multiplied the difficulties of everybody there, because the difficulties arise, not merely for the unfortunate refugees, but for the host country and for the country from which the refugees came, because of the infliction of immense cruelty, barbarity and suffering in that region at present and we feel so utterly helpless about it.
Let us, therefore, readily give this token assistance—that is all I fear it is—and at the same time reflect upon the need to assist any international insituations in preventing similar man-made tragedies occurring in the future and providing some solution to the difficulties which have already arisen. Although for the first time in the history of man all nations have subscribed to the universal declaration of human rights which recognises the right of every individual to freedom and a decent standard of living, we now have a known 55 million refugees in the world, people who are prevented either through deliberate, man-made action or through fear from living in the land of their birth, people who have to endure untold suffering, lives seemingly without hope because  the political ambitions of others make life near to impossible for them.
The United Nations Refugee Organisation do their best to provide relief but I believe such relief is no more than a palliative at any time and that is no more than what we are offering today. This country has a special mission in the world as a country which has no reason to engender hostility anywhere because we have no ambition except to serve mankind, no ambition to dominate any other people, no history of dominating any other people or wanting to interfere in other people's differences. In that situation we should take more initiative than we do to offer ourselves as mediators in any areas of tension that may develop. In this particular region people, both Pakistani and Indian, regard the people of Ireland as their friends. It is some cause of pride to us that three Members of this House have been chosen by international organisations to examine the situation on the spot. The fact that they were invited to do so and were well received is an indication that no country feels any resentment towards us.
For our own good we need to look out on the world to see that the problems outside frequently are greater than our own. It may help us sometimes to see our own difficulties in proper perspective. In comparison with the days in which we achieved our freedom, one of the difficulties nowadays is that when troubles arise they become matters of rivalry between the great international Powers. At one time—we were lucky in making our break then—people striving for freedom and justice and the right to control their own affairs had only to fight against the occupying Power in their territory. Nowadays any people struggling for freedom and creating any kind of international excitement attract to that area the rivalry, the jealousy and the vicious anxiety of the great international Powers.
One of the terrible tragedies in Pakistan at the moment is that the Pakistani Government know they can get arms from a number of different nations. Each nation that is supplying  arms is afraid to stop the supply because, by doing so, they would leave the avenue of supply open to their rivals and thereby lose areas of influence. In a situation like this we should never seek to exert a political influence when we are offering aid of the type we are approving today. To do otherwise would create fears in the mind of the host Government. It must be a cause of some regret to us to read in today's papers reports that the Indian Government have asked for the withdrawal from India of all foreign workers who have been assisting the refugees in recent weeks. I suspect that this arises because of the anxiety of the Indian Government that all the people helping in that work were not neutral and, perhaps, some have been endeavouring to exert political influence.
The Irish people would be most anxious that any Irish workers in the refugee camps should be allowed to remain there. Clearly it gives an added incentive to a country to give help if the people know that the help is being administered by their own nationals. I believe, and I hope I am justified in this belief, that any of our relief workers are not interested in exerting political influence and that their interest is the humanitarian one of relieving suffering. It is necessary to divorce political considerations from humanitarian considerations when offering aid. We must, as the Minister has suggested, consider what steps can be taken to provide a long-term solution.
There are already 55 million known refugees in the world. These people have little prospect of returning to their countries. I had the opportunity of visiting a region where there are 600,000 refugees—they were the Palestinian refugees in Jordan. They live in camps in appalling conditions. They were received with hospitality by the Jordanian Government but a tragedy developed there in which the stresses, the strains and the frustrations of the refugees exploded into hostility against their host Government. As India today holds out a hand of friendship and renders assistance to refugees, she cannot be unmindful of the possibility that six or seven million refugees residing  permanently on her territory must create new political, social and military tensions in the future unless some way is found to allow the refugees to return without fear to East Bengal. They must be allowed to return without suffering the loss of their holdings or any other disadvantage.
I should like to hear from the Minister if he or the Irish delegation at the United Nations have attempted to take any initiative in this field. I do not imagine that from our little remote island on the western fringe of Europe we could know fully the problem or provide the solution. However, as I said before, we should try to encourage other countries to assist Pakistan and India and the people of that region to work out a solution for themselves. That solution must come quickly. The longer the refugees are left in their present plight, the more difficult it becomes to reinstate them and the political regime, which is the cause of their moving, will be more opposed to their return. As has happened in the past, the refugees will be treated as people who have abandoned the country from which they fled and they will be considered not deserving of any rights. Like all mankind, these people have fundamental rights which transcend any political jealousies, rivalries and passing tensions. If the United Nations is to be respected and to fulfil the role which destiny has marked for it, it must provide an expeditious remedy.
I am aware that this money is being voted under a type of international co-operation which includes the Council of Europe. I was saddened to see an article recently that was critical of that organisation and of expenditure in relation to it. The article expressed criticisms which I have heard uttered only by the colonels in Greece——
Mr. Ryan: If the Chair will bear with me, I think its relevance will be seen. The Council of Europe may seem to some people to be no more than a talking shop, but the great achievement of the council is that not only has it its Covenant of Human  Rights but it has a way of enforcing it. It has its Commission on Human Rights and its Court of Human Rights. If a European government behaved in the way we have seen the Pakistani Govment behave in recent times, that Government would find themselves charged with the most serious offences before the European Commission and Court of Human Rights. It is regrettable that the United Nations has not yet developed machinery of that kind so that the fundamental rights of individuals could be asserted, irrespective of the embarrassment that might be caused to political regimes.
Unfortunately, at the moment many governments and institutions are hesitant about making complaints regarding the behaviour of a sovereign government because they consider a sovereign government are entitled to behave in any manner they wish in their own domain. We live in a world community and, if we accept the fundamental equality of all men, we cannot accept that any government have the right to engage in brutal and inhumane conduct towards their own citizens, no matter how justified they may feel in doing so in relation to political ambitions.
We are glad to see that the £10,000 which is going to the Irish Red Cross is to be given directly by the Red Cross to the League of Red Cross Societies. It is most regrettable that the Irish Red Cross and the Irish Government should have been placed in a situation in which they disgraced this country and seriously embarrassed the International Red Cross.
Mr. Ryan: We are also entitled to ensure that the money goes towards  the relief of distress in Pakistan. We are also obliged to ensure that never again is money misdirected and we are also obliged to ensure that when a Minister asks for money in this House he will give an assurance to the House that proper accounting procedure will be followed so that, when the House comes to consider the Estimate at the end of the year and review the preceding year, the Minister will be in a position to prove to the House that the money voted for a particular purpose was spent for that purpose and no other.
We are also entitled on an occasion such as this, when we are giving £10,000 to the Irish Red Cross, to say to the Government that we must never again use the Irish Red Cross for any political purpose no matter how laudable that purpose may be, and no matter how anxious we may be to achieve a particular purpose. The success of the International Red Cross has been that it is divorced from politics and that it does not on any occasion seek to exert political influence or bring about changes in political philosophy.
The object of the International Red Cross is to relieve human suffering and, to be selective in the manner in which you provide that relief, or to cause political embarrassment to the Red Cross, is to do serious disservice not only to the Red Cross but to all mankind, and particularly to the people whom it is intended to relieve. These are terribly important considerations for us to have in mind when we are giving our approval to these proposals. We assume from what the Minister has told us that the money will be channelled directly to the League of Red Cross Societies. If that is so we have no reason to fear that there will be any further embarrassment, or that Ireland will again give any cause to the International Red Cross to make any complaint against us. It should not have happened in the past and I hope that the Government and people of Ireland have learned a lesson and will ensure that it does not happen again.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: As the House  is aware, all three political parties have been represented in a group of observes in that area. Deputy Loughnane and Deputy Esmonde are out there at present. I believe that at the moment they are in the Calcutta area. I think we all regret—and I certainly do— that they are not able to be here to add their voices to this discussion on the Estimate before us. I have seen reports of statements made by them in the area. I fully agree with them. I think, therefore, that there is agreement between the Deputies who have visited the area and the basis for a very wide measure of agreement among all parties here, as there should be, about this very terrible problem.
This is probably the greatest human disaster that has occurred both in scale and intensity since the end of the Second World War, and certainly since the partition of the Indian sub-continent. As the Minister has said, this is a man-made disaster. Man-made disasters have something particularly terrible about them, not only in the evils of the passions involved which create such disasters, but also in their relative irreparability. If farmers have been driven out of an area by a flood, or a cyclone, or a natural disaster, usually after some time they can count on being able to return. Usually they can also count on international aid, uncomplicated by political opposition and calculation.
None of these factors applies in the case of victims of man-made disasters. Refugees who have left in such circumstances may never be able to return to their homes. They can never be integrated into the society to which they have come. That remains very largely a fact about the refugees who crossed from Pakistan into India and possibly the other way also. At the time of the partition of the sub-continent, millions of people remained in West Bengal in the Calcutta area who crossed 20 years ago, who are unabsorbed and unemployed and who have found no role in the society to which they have come and no hope of return to the society which they left.
The present dimensions of the problem are known in a sense and, in another sense, are incapable of being  imagined because of their very scale. The number of refugees is somewhere between six million and seven million. The conditions as I saw them last week are not, perhaps, at first sight so immediately shocking as Press reports, based on the first wave of refugees before the organisation of their reception was undertaken, might have given one to suppose. Most of the refugees are now in receipt of regular though inadequate rations. Most of them have some shelter. The shelter ranges from cowsheds—and these are the élite places for refugees because they provide completely adequate shelter—to tents for which there is competition because they are made of tarpaulin and provide shelter against the monsoon rains, to straw huts some of which are about the length of four of these benches and about that high accommodating families of five or six huddling in these shelters under the monsoon rains in conditions of very great misery.
The danger of a cholera epidemic appears to be contained for the moment as a result of a very fine and well organised mass inoculation effort organised by the Indian Government and using procedures by which one person can inoculate 1,000 people an hour. This seems incredible but it is being done. In this effort, of course, both official international organisations and voluntary organisations such as “War on Want” and “Save the Children” have played and are playing a very useful part.
There have been references to the role of Irish voluntary workers in this work and I should like now to join with the other speakers here in paying tribute to these. Deputy Ryan made reference, rightly and understandably, to the report which has appeared to the effect that the Indian Government may ask relief workers to leave India. I do not think we should take an alarmist view of this. I imagine the Minister will confirm me in that.
I had the privilege of having some discussion on this subject with Father Raymond Kennedy in Calcutta just before he went to join the Irish group in the Garo Hills on the northern frontier of East Pakistan. He told me  of what he regarded as the understandable reservations the Indian Government had about relief groups working in sensitive areas and also of the good relations his group has with the local authorities in the area in which they are working and at whose invitation they are there. The chief co-ordinator of refugee relief in India, Colonel Liuthra, said that the Government had taken a policy decision that all relief work among the refugees be handled by Indians unless a specific request is made for help from abroad. This is very significant. It is also very natural and wholly understandable that, in this situation, which, as well as being a human disaster also involves security aspects which threaten yet further human disaster, no Indian Government could agree to absolutely unrestricted activity by foreign groups in the area, without any supervision, or without any request from the Government of India. I imagine that is all the statement means.
In any case, while we are right to provide the aid we are providing, it seems to be on rather a small scale compared with what we have provided for previous disasters and considering the scale of this one. However, it may not be the final aid. Whatever we may think about international aid forthcoming for this, we must not lose sight of the central fact that the Government of India and the Indian people have been bearing the overwhelming force of the tremendous strain of this event and have been and are doing, and doing very efficiently, most of the work, work which requires a tremendous amount of bureaucratic organisation even to supply such an enormous mass of people, twice the population of this republic, with regular rations and to look after their most pressing health needs. I say most pressing because the refugees, although they are being kept alive from day to day, are only barely being kept alive. They are living on what is essentially a malnutrition diet. If one goes into places in which they are living one notices, for example, that about half the children are playing. As we know, children will play in almost any conditions, particularly if the sun comes out and there is a little bit of open space around; about half  the children are playing and about half are sitting or lying there staring into space. We know what the implications of that are for their health and we find it hard to see just what the future can be for these children as well as for their parents.
In relation to this man-made disaster we have to ask ourselves how long will this disaster last, because the actual presence of the refugees, the life of the refugees, is itself a continuing disaster. They have nothing to do. These people were, in the main, small farmers. They include all kinds of people, as the Minister knows but, in the main, they are small farmers who cultivated two or three acres of rice, three crops a year, in the great monsoon region of the eastern part of the sub-continent. We hear a great deal, and it is right that we should, about Indian and Pakistan poverty; in the cities in particular it is very terrible, but people can lead a decent life if they have a few acres in the country, a surprisingly good life. These had that life. They have it no more and they are, in the main, lying there listlessly and helplessly in these camps.
We are not just talking of a disaster which has happened and is now over. The very life of these refugees is a continuing disaster and, of course, refugees are continuing to come in; they are coming in at the rate of about 2,000 a day. The Indian Government fears that the dimensions of the problem may grow to the incredible figure of 10,000,000 if things go on as they are. We here, in our small way, remote from this disaster, may be approached again and again. The Minister may have to come here for further contributions to enable the disaster not to become worse, to enable it to continue at its present level. That makes urgent the question raised in the last section of the Minister's speech where he says that it is essential that a permanent solution be found to the problem of the means by which the refugees can return to their homes without fear. That is certainly true and I think we can underline the words “without fear” because we have seen in our time, and even within the past five  years, a situation where refugees were told they could safely return to the area from which they had come; they were even urged by their own Government to do so. Their return was followed by a second massacre. That happened at one phase of the events leading to the Nigerian civil war and nobody who remembers that could take the responsibility of urging the Pakistani refugees to go back to their homes on anything less than a virtual certainly that they would not be the victims of further excesses.
What can be done then to enable the refugees to return to their homes? We appreciate and understand the Minister's diplomatic responsibility and his necessary diplomatic reticence on certain things, but I hope that, when he is closing this brief discussion—I would not call it a debate; there is nothing polemical about it— he will be able to give us some indication of the position he will take up on this as a political problem and the line of approach he may take with friendly countries, or in concert with friendly countries, and what he is likely to do about this at the United Nations. The urgency and the nature of this problem are generally known and they carry within themselves, I think inevitably and logically, the answer to the only conditions on which the refugees can safely return home.
The population of East Pakistan were asked to express their views in elections the fairness of which cannot be challenged because they were conducted under the authority of the present government of Pakistan. Among a population of 72 million people, there was a majority of 137 out of 139 for the Awami League which, if the parliamentary session had met afterwards, would have given the Awami League a majority, not only in East Pakistan, but in Pakistan as a whole, Of course, parliament never met. Its convening was postponed. Disturbances occurred in East Pakistan and the Pakistan army retaliated with terror, first, against the Awami League —the political organisation of the majority of the population, mainly Muslims—of East Pakistan and, secondly, against non-Muslims, mainly  Hindus, using these as scapegoats for the repression of the political organisation of the people of East Pakistan.
Incidentally, in relation to that, I should like to commend, if I might humbly do so, the action of the Indian Government in doing their very best— and very successfully so far—to prevent any communal backlash inside India; to prevent resentment at the fate of the Hindus of East Pakistan splashing back against the Muslims of India, a population of 60 million. Should the Indian Government be unsuccessful in these matters there could be in the making another tragedy on an even large scale.
When we accept these facts that are notorious it is clear that the only condition in which the refugees can return safely is the completion of the democratic work, that is to say, the installation in East Pakistan of a government responsible to the people of that area, and the end of military Punjabi rule which, as it works from a considerable distance and through an army that is outnumbered enormously by the people, has taken the path of terrorism as the only effective way, presumably, of maintaining its rule. I have no wish to deal in stories of atrocities but anyone who visits these camps and talks to the refugees will hear many such stories. Some of them may possibly be exaggerated and some refugees may have fled because of what they heard had happened in the next place but most of those to whom I talked— I talked to some directly in English; mainly these were schoolteachers, clerks and people of that type and to some such as ordinary Bengali farmers through an interpreter—had their own personal experience of destruction and of military violence in their own villages.
Whatever about the details, a population of this size, more than six million people comprised mainly of small farmers, do not leave their villages and their homes without having adequate reason for so doing because, by leaving, they are giving up everything that was their life. Not only are they giving up their means of subsistence but they are giving up also their habits, their culture and everything that pertained  to them and made them social human beings. Of course, this continuing disaster is also a kind of time bomb. A section of the people of East Pakistan, believing that they are denied democratic outlet and are being crushed, have resorted to guerrilla activity particularly in the eastern part of the area. The Indian community, on their side, believe that they cannot continue indefinitely to support this situation, a situation in which a town such as, for instance, Tripura, with a population of 30,000 being surrounded now by a refugee population of 100,000. One can well understand how such an area might not consider that it was capable of supporting that number of people indefinitely.
As anybody who has visited the area knows, there is talk of war. This talk is discouraged by the Indian Government and by Mrs. Gandhi but there is a danger that this situation may get out of hand. In short, there is a real threat to the peace. Sometimes the phrase “threat to the peace” is invoked to raise any issue which it might be convenient to raise but which does not actually involve a serious threat. I notice that the Minister is smiling.
Dr. Cruise-O'Brien: The matter is not for either of us a smiling matter. It is a profoundly serious matter and one that is a real threat to peace. In these conditions it is impossible not to be alarmed at the sluggishness and I would even say, callousness, with which the international community generally has responded to so enormous a problem. There seems to be no sense of urgency in dealing with it. Certain countries, the US among them, have continued sending arms shipments with certain qualifications to the effect that they may be about to cut off further supplies. Arms in the hands of Pakistan soldiers are at the origin of this situation. I do not care whether these arms were supplied by the US, by China or any other country but it was these arms in these hands that created this disaster and that can create further disaster. There is ground for a very  clear statement from as many countries as possible, including this country, repudiating and rejecting such arms deals and calling for the cessation of all military aid to Pakistan until such time as this situation has righted itself.
There are many situations, and this is one of them, in which a small country, even one remote like ours and lacking in material or military power, can serve to ventilate effectively a problem which is troubling the conscience of human beings generally and which is troubling these ordinary human consciences very much more than it troubles the conscience—a very rudimentary organ—of any great Power. Small countries can serve to mobilise opinion on this and to assert some pressure—I do not care how much pressure but some—on the great Powers in relation to their position in this situation.
From that point of view and considering the scale of the disaster and considering the threat to world peace, I think the Security Council should have been called together. If it proved impossible to call them together by reason of the resistance of any of the great Powers, a move should be made for a special or emergency session of the General Assembly if only for the purpose of marking the concern of mankind generally in relation to this situation. When we consider a figure that is more than the six million mark we cannot say: “Let the Indians take care of it” or “It is no concern of ours because we are so far away.” There are between six and seven million people involved in a continuing disaster and constituting now a threat to peace which will affect all of us if, which God forbid, India and China should be drawn into conflict in the area which is a possibility not ruled out of consideration in New Delhi. Then a chain of events might be set going which would, indeed, involve all of us in a personal way not just as a question of remote humanitarian concern but as something directly affecting us.
I would, therefore, appeal to the Minister, if I may, to do two things— to give the Dáil and the country some indication of his thinking on these wider aspects and also to consult with like-minded countries — I believe Canada, for example, would be one— to see what kind of international initiative might be most effective here. The Minister's predecessor, Deputy Frank Aiken, on certain occasions, took initiatives of this kind which, I believe, heightened his stature and that of this country internationally and, more important, were of actual use in the reduction of international tension. The Minister now has an opportunity for such an initiative. I believe he would wish to take it if he saw it open to him. I should like very much to hear what he would say about these wider aspects.
Major de Valera: This is a tragic matter and it is right that this Parliament should contribute, as is being done here. The problem, as Deputy Cruise-O'Brien has pointed out, is of very large proportions and ultimately threatens to involve the whole world. I think the problem which faces the Indian Government here, and the necessity for understanding that problem before we rush to offer opinions or criticism is not sufficiently realised. Here is a case where refugees numbering millions have been suddenly translated across a border and are proving a very real problem for the host country organisationally apart from all the other implications.
Apart from the organisational problem and the humanitarian problem, there are political and more than political problems in that the peace along that whole border area on both sides is threatened and, in fact, is being disrupted. There is then the threat of war for this country which in no way was responsible for the situation which developed, a war which could ultimately affect all of us.
This matter is of vast proportions and I have not got very much personal knowledge so there is very little I can contribute to a debate like this, but the point I want to make is that we should have an understanding of the size of the problem and a certain discipline in our approach to it. I am  thinking of the criticism that the Indian Government were placing restrictions on outsiders. Again we must realise the size of this problem. This is not a question of a couple of hundred refugees in a small area. This is not a question of a magnitude with which we are familiar. This is something that requires a vast organisation comparable to a war organisation and it is a problem that could only be faced by a power—I use the word “power” in a general sense—with the capacity to deal with it.
There are one or two fortunate aspects of this disastrous situation. India is a powerful and organised country. The state of India is large and better organised fortunately than it is usually understood to be in this part of the world. The Indian Government are capable of handling the local situation within its own borders as has been proved. Deputy Cruise-O'Brien, who has been there, said that the efficiency and the results obtained have been truly remarkable.
Major de Valera: This fact should be realised. It is a great credit to the Indian Government and to the Indian people. That fact should be appreciated and co-operated with. There is a very large co-ordinational and organisational problem here and the only proper authority to co-ordinate and direct that within the territory of India is the Indian Government and the Indian State.
Of course, I am not decrying the goodwill and the generous and admirable humanitarian efforts of volunteers from other places in the world but it is only reasonable that their efforts should be subordinated to the overall organisation of the Indian Government. For that reason, I think criticism of that Government in that way would be out of place in the present situation.
To develop this into a subject of controversy would be doing a great disservice to the whole cause in which we are interested and about which the whole world is so anxious. Not only is there an organisational and co-ordinational problem but there is also  a very big political problem. I believe that unrestrained interference by outsiders in local political problems, by and large, tends to do more harm than good. There is always this danger in a situation like this aggravated in this case by the political implications of the whole world scene here. We have had the unfortunate experience of Nigeria and Biafra. In this case, where the Indian Government are quite capable of dealing with this side of the problem, they should get all the assistance—material, volunteers, everything—but in an orderly way and under their orderly direction. So much for what might be called the local aspect of the problem.
I have not been there and would not presume to discuss details but on the larger basis it is quite clear that all that can be done by the Indian Government is to alleviate this very great refugee problem. They may even be faced with attempting some permanent settlement which is never an easy thing. Short of warlike action they are confined to their own territory in tackling the problem. Historically the Indians have proved themselves to be amongst the most fundamentally peaceful people in the world and in recent times have demonstrated that attitude also. Therefore, it falls to the remainder of the world to see what can be done to go to the roots of the problem and solve it.
I understand part of this aid is going to the United Nations which appears to be the rational and proper centre through which other nations can operate. I do not know enough about the problem in detail nor have I the experience to be able to offer gratuitous advice to the Minister as to what we should do but we must recognise that there is an over all threatening situation. As in nearly all crisis situations in recent years, there is inherent in this situation the possibility of local war with a threat of global expansion. Perhaps realisation of this threat is one of the best ways of forestalling or preventing further catastrophe. In the councils of the nations that realisation can be developed. It seems, therefore, that there is a real role for the United Nations in this matter. It was comparatively simple for the UN to deal  with problems in Africa or the Middle East but we now have a situation which we may fear is analogous to the situation in which the League of Nations found itself when Abyssinia was invaded and methods of warfare of horrible brutality were employed. The nations of the world in their organisation ultimately found themselves helpless and in acknowledging that fact completely destroyed any power or influence their organisation had when it came to the events that led immediately to the second world war.
Perhaps that is an alarmist statement. But here in some ways are the seeds of greater trouble and—possibly not yet apparent—interests on a much larger scale that may come into conflict. To develop such thoughts would not be helpful because they must be alarmist or have alarming overtones. My point is that we are right in doing what we are doing. The Minister is to be commended on it and also commended because it is oriented towards the United Nations in the beginning at least and it is there one may hope that the voices and actions of the nations of the world can be effective in dealing with the Pakistan problem.
We should realise, as Deputy O'Brien has said, that such situations may call for more help from all nations but that help must be disciplined and co-ordinated and in so far as the action is within the territory of the Indian Government which undoubtedly has given every evidence that its aims and objects are fundamentally and truly peaceful, that action should be coordinated under their supervision. The situation should not be complicated by disconnected activities no matter how well meant. I say this in an effort to avoid or forestall the type of debate that can develop in cases like this where peoples, nations, groups and interests which have fundamentally the same goal, through lack of understanding, cross each other's bows or impede each other in their drive towards a common objective.
The reason I say the Indian Government is the proper authority to deal with this problem is that, first, they are the legitimate authority and,  secondly, the problem is on such a scale that only the Indian Government and people can cope with it. Further, fortunately for humanity, for the refugees and for the peace of the world this great Indian State has the capacity, the organisation and ability to cope with the situation and at least achieve the position in which, as Deputy O'Brien said, the problem is under control although not solved. It will not be solved until the root causes are eradicated.
Dr. Hillery: I should like to thank the House for its contributions and for agreeing to the small financial provision which we have pledged. I agree with Deputy Cruise-O'Brien that the amount seems to be small in the light of the problem. The amount we are voting must make us all feel we should do more. However, if every country according to its means does what we are doing, I think there will be a satisfactory result from the point of view of contributions. I pay as much attention to the fact that this is a token of our interest in the real problems created by the situation in East Pakistan as it is a direct help to those who need money to supply food and clothing for the refugees.
We have had a discussion here which makes it worthwhile considering some broad principles which should be considered by this House from time to time. A small but important point is the role of the Dáil in getting information from these areas. The Deputies who contributed will be aware of the machinery available to my Department —in this case through the ambassador in India—and my personal contacts with the ambassadors of the countries concerned. The fact that we can get informed debate and discussion on problems so important, and at the same time so far away, makes one wonder if this House should not consider sending our own Parliamentary delegation for information if we are seeking a role for this country in international affairs. At the same time, we must be grateful to the organisations which make it possible for Deputies to visit the areas. I put out this suggestion merely as an idea. This is not to take from the very valuable service  made available to me by the civil servants involved in my Department, on the spot and at home.
Having said that, I would mention that the humanitarian aspect of these problems brings an easy response. We all have a ready compassion for those who are suffering and this House has never been niggardly in its response to requests for help. I share the view of Deputy Cruise-O'Brien that we may have to help again. The problem will not be solved by having a debate on one occasion. It will not be solved until people can return home and find roots.
To move from the humanitarian aspect of the refugee problem and like problems, to the solution, one is immediately into the principles of involvement in conflict situations, whether international or sectional. My experience has been that any solution, no matter how obviously it is the correct one, only works if it is accepted by all parties involved in the conflict. Only to that extent is it a real solution from the point of view of the person concerned in government, whether in foreign affairs or in home affairs. The wish to offer a solution making it at the same time clear that there is no wish to have a solution imposed by force, means that a person time his efforts to the situation in which a solution is desired and acceptable to the parties involved.
I think Deputies will agree that if you come along with a solution not acceptable to one side, if you insist on proposing it, or trying to find means to impose it by going to larger organisations such as the United Nations, you are not finding a solution. You are taking sides and destroying the possible role which this country could have in conflict situations. That is the principle which guides me in this type of international situation. Deputies, aware of our history, and knowing that there is goodwill for us, think that to offer to mediate would be acceptable immediately. If Deputies think it out they will realise our usefulness could be diminished considerably if the offer is ill-timed or if any attempt is made to force what would appear to us a reasonable solution but  is one not acceptable to one side or the other in the conflict.
Dr. Hillery: The Deputy will agree with me that we cannot enforce in terms of military force, but bringing the force of public and international opinion is to use force also. This does not exclude what Deputies asked me to do. I shall follow up with our Ambassador to the UN the possibilities of initiatives being taken by us, as long as Deputies accept that my thinking is a reasonable approach to our taking initiatives.
We have diplomatic relations with Pakistan and we have friendly ties with the people. We hope Pakistan will find a solution soon to the situation existing in that country and thereby bring peace and stability to the sub-continent. We are following events. Any initiative will be determined in the light of all the factors involved. I made known our concern about the situation in Pakistan to the authorities there. On 26th June the Ambassador of Pakistan to Ireland—he is resident in London —travelled to Dublin at my request. We discussed the matter at some length and I told him that the Government, Members of this House and the public generally were gravely disturbed by reports of events in East Pakistan and the massive out-flow of refugees to India. All of us must be conscious of the dangers in the present situation and I hope both India and Pakistan display the greatest restraint. I have grave doubts about attempting to involve ourselves directly in searching for a solution at this time. Unless invited to mediate—and we have not been invited to mediate—I would not force myself on the people involved.
Deputy Cruise-O'Brien referred to “like-minded people” but I think this is covered by my undertaking to follow up in the UN the possibilities of initiatives. Our first step would be to seek out like-minded people and see if we can find a way to help the situation.
 I should like to put on record, as other Deputies have done, a sincere tribute to the magnificent efforts which India has made in providing refuge and aid for these more than six million people. As has been said, it would be a daunting task for any country, but it is a particularly heavy burden on India which is strugglng to overcome great obstacles in the way of its own development. India is entitled to look to the international community for all possible humanitarian help in meeting the needs of the refugees.
With regard to the report in the newspaper this morning, I am awaiting clarification of the position and would prefer not to comment until I have received it. Deputy Cruise-O'Brien's explanation is probably correct. It seems quite reasonable to me that a country would want to control another influx of people in taking care of a problem like that. It may be, in fact, that adequate personnel are already in India. I do not think anybody would dispute the right of the Indian Government to decide who will deal with their problems at this time. They have asked for financial help and I think we should willingly give it without in any way trying to say that the fact that they are dealing with a great tragedy diminishes their right over the movement of people in their own territory so far as helpers are concerned.
I should like to thank the House again. This has been a useful debate. From time to time Ireland's role is brought up. Each time it is—and it is useful to consider it—it makes me wonder whether we are playing our role to the full. If we do not always seem to take action it is because of what I said. Untimely action can cause you to fall and make you seem to take sides in a dispute which is not your own and reduce, or sometimes remove, your possible usefulness, created by the goodwill which already exists and which is based on the behaviour of our country up to now in many situations.
Dr. Hillery: ——since 6th April. There is the question of the delivery of equipment the sale of which had been approved before that date. It is a complex matter. Before deciding to make representations I should like to be sure that it is would be a useful step. Certainly I will take into account what Deputies have said here. I will deal with it as a very serious contribution. I agree with the principle that the supplying of arms into any situation where there is a possibility of making these arms the expression of evil intentions and passions, is totally wrong. Anything we can say or do to stop it should be said or done.
Dr. Hillery: This has been pointed out. Again I would ask the House to accept the broad principles of my thinking which determine when and how I would intervene on behalf of the Government. One's personal feelings must be subjected to broad principles of behaviour as a Government.
|Last Updated: 15/09/2010 03:43:28||Page of 88|