LONDON: Pakistan and the UK agreed on Wednesday to further broaden their cooperation and partnership by establishing a strategic dialogue through four points to promote mutual prosperity and stability. This was decided during the hour long meeting between the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Asif Ali Zardari just hours after the Pakistani leader flew into London from his first official visit to the US.
Reading out the joint statement at a news conference at the 10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister said they agreed that the strategic dialogue will be actively driven forward by the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan and the UK Prime Minister.
They will meet annually to assess bilateral relations to determine their shared priorities and objectives. Foreign Ministers will meet biannually to review progress and provide direction to the joint UK-Pakistan work programme announced today.
The two leaders agreed that their strategic dialogue will address a number of areas and priorities. “We will focus mutual efforts to overcome threats from militancy, terrorism and extremism, to bring stability and to reduce poverty,” said Brown.
President Asif Ali Zardari was assisted at the talks by Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Deputy High Commissioner Asif Durrani and other senior officials of the Chancery.
President Zardari said the two countries recognise that these threats can only be overcome in the long term by improving prospects for sustainable economic development, education and opportunities for young people. “We are committed to a long term partnership on these issues.”
The other point of the strategy is the normalisation of relations with India and efforts to bring stability in Afghanistan to lessen the pressure on Pakistan.
Brown said the UK supported Pakistani government in establishing the Friends of Democratic Pakistan group and will work with Pakistan to ensure that his strategic dialogue contributes to and enhances the work of the friends.
President Zardari expressed and re-emphasised the commitment of his Government to defeat terrorism and violent extremism. To this Brown spoke of his faith in Pakistan’s ability to meet the challenges it faces.
The British Prime Minister also announced an immediate funding of twelve million pounds sterling for assisting the internal displaced persons fleeing from the unrest in Swat and other areas.
According to the joint statement, the UK recognised the significant achievement of the Pakistani government in stabilising the economy and keeping Pakistan’s IMF programme on track.
Brown said the international community demonstrated it support for Pakistan’s economy at the donors conference in Tokyo last month.” We are committed to ensuring that this support is delivered on time and in ways that best support Pakistan’s priorities for development.”
Responding to a question, President Zardari reiterated that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is safe and in no danger of falling into the wrong hands through its sound command and control structure.
He also denied that 40 per cent of Pakistan territory has been conceded to the Taliban and told the reporter that his facts are wrong and he should talk to the Pakistan High Commissioner to correct this misperception.
The Pakistani leader thanked Brown for promoting democracy in Pakistan and help in ending military dictatorship. He said Pakistan has always looked at Britain during its hour of need and the UK had been hosting Pakistan political leaders who were forced to exile by repressive military regimes in the past.
President Zardari said winning the battle of ideas against violent extremists and those who support them is crucially important to both the countries.
He said Pakistan had sought peace in Swat and the resolution in this regard was unanimously passed by the Parliament. However, he said the religious elements attempted to challenge the writ of the Government by spreading to other areas which forced the authorities to take action.
Responding to another question, President Zardari said Taliban had been hurling threats to the elected members of the Parliament in order to spread fear but he was confident that this threat will be nullified through democracy.
The Pakistani Head of the State further said his country was striving to resolve the issue in Tribal areas through a policy of dialogue, deterrence and dialogue and was confident that the support and assistance of the International community, the Government would be able to achieve desirable goals.
The British Prime Minister was questioned on his recent visit to Pakistan and asked whether he had suggested to the PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif to join the Federal Cabinet to strengthen the hands of President Zardari.
However, Brown categorically stated this was not at all discussed with Sharif through other issues relating to regional security, strengthening Pakistan democratic institutions and ways of dealing with the Taliban threat were deliberated.-APP