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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Kashmir warning a 'precaution' - Straw
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw with Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh
Mr Straw held discussions with his Indian counterpart
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says Britons have been urged to leave India and Pakistan as a "precautionary" measure ahead of any escalation in tensions over Kashmir.

Mr Straw said intelligence assessments had prompted him make what he called a "hard decision" to advise British nationals to leave both countries.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Straw said the situation was under constant review.

"There comes a moment when in terms of a balance between being overcautious and complacent that the advice ought to be changed. That day was yesterday (Friday).


We believe it was prudent and appropriate to issue this advice

Jack Straw
"In the end you have to make judgements... and these are hard decisions."

His comments came as parents and children of some staff at the British High Commission in Delhi prepared to leave the country on Saturday night.

BBC South Asia correspondent Adam Mynott said they are the first of 150 people advised to go.

Speaking from Delhi he said: "There is not a mass exodus.

"Many of the 20,000 or so British people who live in India may feel that they live far enough away from the troublespot to be at any risk.

"But there is no doubt that the warning put out by the Foreign Office has caused a stir in the British population here."

British mood

He added "life seemed to be going on as normal" with no sense that the country is preparing for war.

The Foreign Office has also warned UK tourists to avoid all travel to India and Pakistan due to the "increased risk of conflict".

This is the first time tourists have been told to avoid India as a whole, rather than just the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Straw said his own judgement was taken bearing in mind the safety of the UK community and following "very anxious discussions" with government, paralleled in Washington, he said.

Earlier in the week the UK Government had said the situation was dangerous but that war was not inevitable between India and Pakistan.

'Precautionary'

"It is true, we cannot possibly share the intelligence assessments we have had," said Mr Straw.

"But when you have a million men under arms on either side of the line of control, all of them in a high state of alert and readiness, both countries also have nuclear weapons and Pakistan says it has the right to use them first, then you have a very dangerous situation."


Whilst this is a precautionary measure and not heralding an emergency evacuation it was required by the situation

Jack Straw

"We believe it was prudent and appropriate to issue this advice," he said, adding that the US, Canada and the United Nations had all issued warnings to their own citizens in India.

There are about 20,000 British nationals living in India and around 700 in Pakistan.

Asked about current deals between private companies and India over arms - including Sea Harriers and Hawks - Mr Straw said the government had not acted to stop any negotiations.

He said any negotiations reaching a conclusion would still come before the government for licensing, when any decision would be based on the conflict situation.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"The Kashmir crisis is deepening"
Click here fror background reports and analysis

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See also:

31 May 02 | UK Politics
22 May 02 | South Asia
31 May 02 | South Asia
30 May 02 | UK Politics
26 Mar 02 | UK Politics
01 Jun 02 | UK
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