ISLAMABAD, June 30: British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Pakistani leadership on Sunday to be uncompromising with terrorists and pledged more support for their counter-terrorism measures.
“This is a battle that, yes, requires tough and uncompromising security response,” Prime Minister Cameron said at a joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the lawns of PM’s House.
The British prime minister was the first foreign head of government to visit Islamabad since the formation of the new government.
Mr Cameron’s comments came as a large number of people died in terrorist attacks in a market on the outskirts of Peshawar, in Miramshah and Wana and Quetta.
Over 40,000 people have been killed in militant violence in Pakistan since 2004 and the economic losses have been estimated at about $60 billion. About 2,500 people have been killed in terrorist attacks this year alone.
In his talks with the Pakistani leadership, Mr Cameron committed to provide technical support for the new counter-terrorism policy that the PML-N government intends to develop; and equipment for dealing with improvised explosive devices, the weapon of choice for the terrorists.
The UK, which is already engaged in a process of security dialogue with Pakistan, would also be helping the country bolster the security of its infrastructure in addition to sharing expertise on safeguarding sporting events.
“We will stand together and conduct this fight against extremism and terrorism together,” Mr Cameron said.
The British prime minister had three years ago (July 2010) sparked a serious row with Islamabad by telling an Indian audience that Pakistan would not be allowed to “look both ways” while promoting export of terrorism.
But speaking alongside Nawaz Sharif on Sunday he looked to have got a deeper insight of the complexity of the issue as he suggested a host of measures that need to be undertaken in the battle against terror — countering extremism and radicalisation, investing in education, tackling poverty and addressing the issues that promote extremism and radicalisation.
Britain is particularly interested in counter-terrorism cooperation with Islamabad because most of its share of radicalism- and terrorism-related woes has been linked to groups operating in Pakistan.
Mr Sharif agreed with Mr Cameron that terrorism posed a more serious threat than ever not only to his country but also to the world.
“Pakistan has suffered the most in terms of human and financial losses. We are, therefore, resolved to tackle the menace of extremism and terrorism with renewed vigour and close cooperation with our friends,” Mr Sharif noted.
AFGHANISTAN: Mr Cameron asked the Pakistani prime minister to develop cooperative relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to facilitate resumption of the reconciliation process that faltered because of the controversial opening of the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar.
“I also welcome, Mr Prime Minister, what you’ve said about the vital importance of the relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I profoundly believe that a stable, prosperous, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interests, just as a strong, stable, peaceful, prosperous and democratic Pakistan is in Afghanistan’s interests. And I know that you and President Karzai will work together towards those ends,” he said.
Before coming to Islamabad, the British prime minister had visited Kabul in an effort to convince President Karzai to agree to talks with the Taliban.
Pakistan’s role in the opening of the Taliban political office in Doha was widely acknowledged by the international community. Islamabad is said to be still contributing to the process by trying to coax the Taliban to return to the process after the controversy at the opening ceremony after which the plaque of their preferred name of the office — Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — and their flag was removed by Qatari authorities.
However, Mr Karzai’s frayed ties with the Pakistani leadership are proving to be too unhelpful.
The acrimony was reflected at Mr Cameron’s media interaction in Kabul, where President Karzai said: “We have reports of Pakistan making such efforts (supporting the Taliban). I don’t know what Pakistan’s benefit is in following an agenda of weak governance in Afghanistan.”
Western leaders believe that improved relations between Mr Karzai and Pakistani leaders could greatly facilitate the troubled peace process.
Prime Minister Cameron had earlier this year hosted a summit with President Zardari and President Karzai at Chequers to improve ties between the two sides. The summit, which was the third such event hosted by the British prime minister, was attended by the military and intelligence leadership of both sides. But, British officials now agree that Chequers failed to achieve its objectives with Pak-Afghan relationship dipping to new lows.
At Sunday’s press conference, Mr Sharif said he valued the British efforts for a rapprochement with Mr Karzai.
“I have assured Prime Minister Cameron of our firm resolve to promote the shared objective of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan,” he said.
TRADE: The two countries agreed to an upward revision of the bilateral trade target to £3 billion by 2015. They had earlier committed to a target of £2.5bn.
The British High Commission noted in a statement that the trade target revision signalled UK’s confidence in Pakistan’s economic future.
The UK has been a strong advocate of trade concessions for Pakistan to help resuscitate its ailing economy.
The second annual Pak-UK trade conference, it was agreed, would be held this autumn in London. The energy sector will be encouraged both by Islamabad and London to attend the event.
Prime Minister Sharif pledged full support for creating a pro-business and pro-investment environment in the country.
“The UK will continue to play its leading role in the international community to support Pakistan to enhance economic growth, including through increased market access to the European Union. Under the framework of the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue, the two governments will continue their regular dialogue on economic reform,” the joint communiqué issued at the conclusion of Mr Cameron’s visit said.
Mr Cameron separately met business leaders and entrepreneurs and said his government placed emphasis on building stronger trading links with Pakistan.