Cameron seeking a “fresh start” | Pakistan Today

Cameron seeking a “fresh start”

ISLAMABAD – British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a new start in relations with Pakistan on Tuesday, eight months after sparking a diplomatic row by saying Pakistan should not be allowed to “look both ways” on terrorism.
Cameron, who made those controversial comments on a trip to India in July 2010, will meet Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad, seeking to improve co-operation on counter-terrorism operations and Afghanistan. “Let’s make today a ‘fresh start’ in our relationship,” Cameron said in a speech to university students in Islamabad.
Part of Cameron’s olive branch is a 650 million pound pledge to help build schools, train teachers and buy textbooks for Pakistani children – potentially Britain’s biggest overseas education project which could put Pakistan at the top of the UK’s aid list.
The four-year scheme, which will have to be matched by Pakistan to reach fruition, is intended to put four million children into school and is seen by Britain as a way to reduce extremism.
Cameron also pledged to push the World Trade Organisation to agree on an emergency trade package for Pakistan, proposed last year by the European Union, saying Britain will continue to be the “strongest possible advocate for greater Pakistani access to European Union markets”.
A healthy relationship with U.S. ally Pakistan is seen as key to bringing an end to the decade-long Afghan campaign, in which Britain has committed about 9,500 troops.
The British government has justified its involvement in the war in Afghanistan by saying the majority of terrorist plots uncovered in Britain have their roots in the lawless Afghan-Pakistan border region.
Pakistan’s help on tackling militancy is crucial to tackling the threat from terrorism in Britain, officials say.
While the West has been frustrated by Pakistani efforts to fight militancy in the past, the British government believes Islamabad has made progress in recent months in parts of the northwest where al Qaeda and the Taliban take shelter. “I want to assure you that Pakistan has the resolve and the commitment to fight against extremism and terrorism,” Gilani told reporters at a joint press conference with Cameron. “We’ve paid a heavy price for that.”
Cameron sparked a row with Pakistan with his speech in the Indian city of Bangalore last July.
“We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country (Pakistan) is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world,” he said then.
Cameron and Zardari attempted to smooth over the row when the Pakistani leader visited London in August. Former colonial power Britain is home to a sizable minority of people of Pakistani origin.
“I acknowledge that there are challenges that our friendship must overcome,” Cameron said in his speech, calling the relationship with Pakistan “unbreakable”.
“Whether it’s relations with India, our security or questions of governance, if we work closely with one another, if we’re clear that we need each other to succeed, we can grasp these difficult issues and move beyond them to a better future,” Cameron will say.
The two governments will also hold the first session of a national security dialogue as part of efforts to improve relations.
British Chief of Defence Staff David Richards, national security adviser Peter Ricketts and the head of the foreign intelligence services John Sawers are with Cameron.
On the Pakistani side, Gilani will be joined in the talks by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, director-general of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Britain will also propose sending experts and funds for a counter-explosive training centre, which officials say will be a priority for the next year.
The two countries will also agree to aim for an increase in bilateral trade to 2.5 billion pounds a year by 2015 from 1.9 billion pounds, with a focus on retail, chemicals and financial services.
In return, Britain will get greater access to and dialogue with Pakistan’s top military brass.
Last year, the European Union proposed cutting tariffs on a large number of Pakistani products to boost imports to Europe by 100 million euros ($142.15 million) a year to help Islamabad recover from devastating floods.
Most of the trade concessions, offered via a unilateral tariff waiver, are on textile exports, one of Pakistan’s major industries, and that was the deal Cameron said Britain would lobby hard to see approved.
“Whether it’s relations with India, our security or questions of governance, if we work closely with one another, if we’re clear that we need each other to succeed, we can grasp these difficult issues and move beyond them to a better future,” Cameron said.

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