Thursday, 28 July 2011

British Foreign Secretary's visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan

Foreign Secretary’s visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan

UK’s one of the largest development progammes
on education in Pakistan, Foreign Secretary

Dr. Mozammel Haque

British Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Afghanistan last week of June, 2011 with a purpose to “reiterate British support and prosperity for both these countries.” British Foreign Secretary was in a joint visit to Afghanistan with his counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was the first joint visit to Afghanistan between the European and Arab foreign ministers. “We pressed for the progress on and reinforce for our support for Afghan-led political settlement and Afghan-led reconciliation in Afghanistan. It provided an opportunity to continue to build up a structure on relationship between the UK and UAE and demonstrate the valid close cooperation in Afghanistan,” said Foreign Secretary Mr. Hague.

300,000-strong Afghan National Security Force
US President Obama has already announced to bring down the US troops over the next three years. “That announcement was welcome which is on line of our own thinking. There is clearly a programme on the ground in Afghanistan,” said Foreign Secretary and mentioned, “We are building up an Afghan National Security Forces now nearly 300,000 strong. They would be able to take over the control of the entire region of Afghanistan.”

British Foreign Secretary also visited Combined Centre where there is Afghan police and military forces. “So in many ways, the transition has already been taken place; but that formally happened in last week in Laskar and six other areas in months. And I was impressed by the work they are doing,” mentioned Mr. Hague.

Speaking about the reduction of British forces, Foreign Secretary mentioned, the Prime Minister already announced a few weeks ago that there would be a reduction in British troops level in Afghanistan. About 426 troops will be coming home this year that is above the 9,500 troops which will take place over the next year. Transition is already taking place. “But what happens between now 2011 and 2015 depending on the condition on the ground and improvement,” said British Foreign Secretary.

Visit to Pakistan
British Foreign Secretary also visited Pakistan. He had a long discussion with the then acting Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan “on a full-range of issues; strong commitment on both sides hands relationship between the UK and Pakistan”. Foreign Secretary William Hague termed the Pakistan-British relationship “There is an unbreakable partnership between Pakistan and UK and we have to build on that.”

Enhanced Strategic Dialogue
United Kingdom and Pakistan agreed to prepare a comprehensive plan of action to intensify cooperation in trade and business, defence, development, education, health, security and cultural cooperation. This was stated by British Foreign Secretary William Hague at a press briefing at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 28 June 2011. “There are obvious things that bind our countries together; the opportunities for trade, the shared determination to defeat terrorism and violent extremism and all the strong cultural family ties between UK and Pakistan,” he mentioned.

British Prime Minister David Cameron launched in last April what is called “Enhanced Strategic Dialogue between UK and Pakistan,” mentioned Foreign Secretary and said, “it is in the interest of both the countries to sustain and enduring broad-based strategic relationship based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.”

Five areas have been identified as constituents of the enhanced strategic dialogue between the two countries and Pakistan would share working papers with UK in moving forward on each one of them.

Mr. Hague also said, “We are committed to increasing the cooperation through national security dialogue as well. We discussed our shared interest in pursuing peace and stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan has a very important responsible role to play in that regard.”

Greatest advocate of Pakistan market access to EU
Speaking about his meeting with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, William Hague said, Enhanced Strategic Dialogue “covering a wide range of areas including greater bilateral trade and investment.” He also mentioned, “We pledged to increase trade and good services between UK and Pakistan to two and half billion pounds a year by 2012. We are the greatest advocate for Pakistan’s market access to the European Union something which could dramatically increase Pakistan’s exports and we will continue to advocate strongly in the months ahead.”

Pakistan’s enemy is our enemy – David Cameron
British Foreign Secretary also mentioned about the “sacrifices made by Pakistan being on the front line of terrorism fighting and facing terrorism,” said Mr. Hague and added, “Pakistan is on the frontline of terrorism, making more sacrifices against terrorism than any other country paid on the planet.” British Foreign Secretary also mentioned about the visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron and what he said in this context. Mr. Hague said, “David Cameron said when he was in Pakistan in this context, Pakistan’s enemy is our enemy.”

In this connection, the UK Foreign Secretary also visited Police Lines Headquarters in Islamabad along with Pakistan’s Interior Minister, senator Malik and paid his respects to the fallen martyrs of the Pakistani police service. “I paid my respect to the police memorial recognising the sacrifices of the police martyrs and then met the families of the victims of those affected by terrorism,” said British Foreign Secretary. ..

Developmental programme on education
Speaking about the developmental programme on education, British Foreign Secretary said “this is one of the largest programmes in our developmental aid in the world, particularly for the primary education.” He mentioned, “6.8 million children between the ages 5 to 9 years don’t go to school at all. That’s one in ten of all the children out of school.” Foreign Secretary mentioned UK support for Pakistan in development terms which is becoming UK’s largest development programme. “On education, we will focus on helping Pakistan on getting more than four million children into school and recruiting and training teachers,” mentioned Mr. Hague.

Mr. William Hague said: “UK’s four year education programme for Pakistan would help get more than four million children into school, help recruit and train ninety thousand teachers besides provision of six million sets of text books.”

Q&A Session
In the Question and Answers session, replying to a question on terrorism, British Foreign Secretary said, 9/11 is every year in Pakistan. “Pakistan has made huge military efforts. Hundreds and thousands casualties and we always remembered and acknowledged them. Nevertheless, we have not defeated terrorism as yet. We know that 3,000 people were killed in last year as a result of terrorism. 9/11 is every year in Pakistan. Of course we have to do more together in order to defeat terrorism that includes reconciliation and working together including with the United States and the UK in order to even more effectively terrorist organisations.”

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