Saturday, 3 July 2010

UK wants deeper closer relationship with Pakistan

UK wants deeper closer relationship with Pakistan –
Says Foreign Secretary William Hague, M.P.

Dr. Mozammel Haque

British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, M.P. made his first visit to Pakistan as Foreign Secretary to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the United Kingdom and Pakistan. “Our partnership is far deeper than is commonly perceived. It is based on shared history and a myriad of ties between individuals and families and businesses,” said Foreign Secretary.

Foreign Secretary Hague visited Pakistan earlier as a Shadow Foreign Secretary but he was able to see more of Pakistan than he was able to see in his previous visits. This time he went out of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan and went to Karachi and other cities. During this visit, Foreign Secretary met the President of Pakistan Asif Zardari and had dinner with him. He also met Prime Minister Gilani, Foreign Minister, Finance Minister, Interior Minister and discussed some serious issues with the leaders of Pakistan.

During his meetings with Pakistani leaders and opinion formers in Islamabad and Karachi, Foreign Secretary said, “The new British Government is committed to continuing our relationship, exploring ways in which the UK and Pakistan could work even more closely together and listening to advice about the region as well as offering UK support. As Governments, Britain and Pakistan work closely together and with other partners, including the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, on our common interests in encouraging trade and prosperity, tackling extremism and supporting stability in Afghanistan.”

“I went with the objective of signalling that the new British government seeks a long term and close partnership with Pakistan and of course that includes good relations between the governments of the United Kingdom and Pakistan but it involves much more than that,” said the Foreign Secretary in his briefing on Monday, 27th of June after returning back from Pakistan.

Nearly a million British citizens are of Pakistani heritage and 10,000 Pakistanis study in British schools and universities. Over £1 billion /130 billion rupees worth of trade flows between the two countries each year along with hundreds of thousands of visitors travelling in both directions. Five newly-elected members of the British Parliament are of Pakistani origin. These living ties are the lifeblood of that partnership and explain much of its warmth and enduring nature. “The strong enduring ties that exist between the UK and Pakistan will continue to bind our countries together and we look forward to helping Pakistan achieve a better, more prosperous future for its citizens,” said Foreign Secretary.

Recollecting his visit, Foreign Secretary mentioned his meeting with Governor of Sind, Chief Minister and provincial leaders in Karachi and its business group. “In Karachi I met the Pakistan Business Council and the members of the Stock Exchange and saw something of the business life of Karachi,” Foreign secretary said and added, “I think this is a very positive element in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Pakistan and there are more of business opportunities than anybody has yet taken advantage of.”

United Kingdom is the second largest overseas investor in Pakistan. Speaking about the trade relationship, Foreign Secretary mentioned, “United Kingdom is already the second largest overseas investor in Pakistan. We do have a million pounds worth of trade flows between the two countries; but I think there is more potential in the relationship in Pakistan and in businesses too.”

Foreign Secretary also mentioned about the economic opportunities in Pakistan and he thinks that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) ‘will be doing more in the coming years to promote economic links and economic opportunities.’ “That was a very important dimension to the visit,” said Hague, M.P.

Foreign Secretary also met with media at the three press conferences and gave television interviews in Pakistan. “I want the people of Pakistan to know that the United Kingdom wants long term relationship and friendship between the United Kingdom and Pakistan,” said Foreign Secretary.

Foreign secretary also mentioned about some concerns about which they will work together. He said that we talked on counter-terrorism and about Afghanistan. He mentioned, “It’s too easy only to see danger; it is important to see opportunities as well. I want the people of Pakistan to know that we see that opportunities and relationships and that means building on that diasporas in this country which is about millions from that represents hundreds of thousands personal connection, family connections and sometimes business connections. That should be seen as opportunities by both countries and where there are successful people, whether they are good role model in the Diaspora we should be celebrate them in this country.”

Foreign Secretary mentioned about the long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan. “We are giving more development aid and we will also have committed in the next four years 665 million pounds of aid to Pakistan, making us the second largest bilateral donor to Pakistan. This is one of our largest aid programmes in the world. Our assistance also includes 250 million pounds for education, particularly primary education since literacy is obviously the major issue in Pakistan and 100 million pounds for humanitarian assistance and to support reconstruction in the conflict affected areas bordering Afghanistan. Our assistance in these areas is helping to meet critical needs for people displaced by the conflict and also helping those returning to their homes by repairing key bridges, rebuilding schools and getting businesses re-started,” mentioned Foreign Secretary.

Foreign Secretary also mentioned, “Speaking in Pakistan recently, Britain’s Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said that he was determined to make Pakistan a higher priority, focusing heavily on education. This is the right choice, which I fully support. I have seen for myself the difference that can be made by helping young people get access to education and jobs and the people of Pakistan are the bright hope for its future.”

Foreign Secretary paid tribute “to the resilience of Pakistani people, the sacrifices they have made in the fighting violent extremism” and observed, “It often is not understood well enough in western countries. How much the armed forces of Pakistan have to do and how many thousands of their members have given their lives in that struggle against violent extremism. I hope I have got that message across on the visit to Pakistan.”

While supporting Pakistani democratic institutions, Foreign Secretary said, “We support those democratic institutions. We want them to succeed in future because that is good for Pakistan; it’s good for the stability, for democracy. Britain will support Pakistan in the difficult challenges it faces in building the strong, democratic and representative institutions on which prosperity and stability rest, and in engaging in further dialogue with its neighbours.”

To understand each other’s culture and traditions and to overcome misconceptions, Foreign Secretary said, “It is also important that we work over time to translate the bonds between our peoples into deeper understanding of each other’s culture and traditions and the overcoming of misconceptions which sometimes arise.”

“I welcome the work of the British Council in this area. Their schemes have helped build bridges between young people in 400 British and Pakistani schools. I am also pleased to see the initiatives of the UK-Pakistan foundation which will help foster non- governmental links, not least between our new generations,” said the Foreign Secretary.

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