Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview in Lahore on Tuesday 14th January 1997.
Can I firstly extend my thanks to the Government of Pakistan and to the people for the very warm hospitality that Norma and I have enjoyed over the last couple of days. It has been a trip I have long looked forward to and one I will look back on with a great deal of pleasure for a long time.
The principal focus of the visit was to advance the rapidly-growing trading and commercial interests between the United Kingdom and Pakistan. Our trade flow has increased by about 50 per cent in the last few years and British investment in Pakistan has gone up by almost four times in the last three years or so. What I am anxious to see and what the Government are anxious to see as well is that growth in trade and mutual interests continuing again in the future. I brought with me a very distinguished group of businessmen. A great deal of work has gone on and I hope that will both add to the trade flow and add to the investment flow in the months that lie ahead.
I also had the opportunity of lengthy discussions both with the prime minister and the president and with a number of other prominent political personalities and I found those extremely useful and extremely valuable.
The principal feeling that I have as I come to the conclusion of this tour is that despite all that has been done to enrich the relationship over recent years, there is still far more that can be built upon and the opportunity of a much wider and deeper trading and commercial relationship is there to be taken providing the British Government, the Pakistan government and British and Pakistani business are determined that it shall be so. I think they are.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Prime Minister, you spoke earlier on at the seminar and you mentioned political stability. Political stability is obviously conditional on regional stability. Has the UK Government made any suggestions to the prime minister or the president of Pakistan to move in that direction and what would those suggestions be?
That matter was discussed both with the prime minister and with the president and I think up to a point you are right, regional stability obviously adds to domestic political stability though from the point of the businessmen it is domestic political stability that they are most concerned about but yes, we did discuss those matters, they are essentially matters for Pakistan not for an outsider to deal in but where we can offer help, encouragement and assistance we will be happy to do so.
Prime Minister, what are your views about the Kashmir issue and in the present circumstances how can it be solved and how can you help Pakistan and India?
I discussed that issue at some length with the president and I think the president subsequently indicated the nature of our discussion.
There are three essential parties to a solution to the Kashmir issue: the government of Pakistan, the government of India and the people themselves who live in Kashmir. All of those three are going to have an important part in deciding whether there can be a solution.
Self-evidently, one wants to ensure that comprehensive talks take place. I very much hope that will be possible soon, I hope the governments will be able to get together, I hope they will be able to take full account of the views of the people who actually live in Kashmir. If external help and assistance is required, where it is thought it might be appropriate if we are asked we will be happy to lend a hand but essentially the agreement is going to have to be reached in this part of the world; it cannot be imposed, it must take account of the people who live in Kashmir and it is undoubtedly going to require skill, wisdom and courage by both governments.
I hope that it will be possible to move forward because to follow up the question from your colleague a few moments ago, if the Kashmir problem were to be be solved over the next few years – and nobody should doubt the difficulties of it – I think that would be a key, not the only key but a key to unlocking a great deal of greater stability, investment and prosperity in the years to come.