Saturday, 7 August 2010
Huge slice of Pakistani Humble Pie for David Cameron
Didn’t I say that David Cameron had gone off message in his recent spat with Pakistan? Now he has described the relationship between the UK and Pakistan as “unbreakable”. Not the terrorist merchants we were led to believe then? Didn’t I also say that a heavey duty amount of back pedalling and watering down would be necessary to restore the equilibrium between the USA and their junior partners? I hate to say I told you so but.....
Yesterday, after his first meeting with Pakistan’s president since his comments provoked outrage, the Prime Minister also praised the sacrifices the Islamic Republic had made fighting extremism.
Mr Cameron appeared keen to downplay the diplomatic tensions that surrounded the meeting, at his official country estate of Chequers. President Asif Ali Zardari had previously stated that he would use the visit to challenge Mr Cameron over his claims. The President is also in hot water at home for being out of the country during a national emergency on a lavish foreign trip. But what a golden opportunity for Zardari, he’s got DC over a barrel so a perfect time to whizz over and get something. I wonder what it is? No doubt all will be revealed in due course.
DC’s unfortunate remarks in a question and answer session were seen as particularly explosive because they were made on a trip to India, with whom Pakistan has long had a difficult relationship (to say the least) and of course the two are nuclear rivals.
As well as exporting terrorism, Cameron had accused Pakistan of “looking both ways” on the issue. Almost as good as New Labour’s “ethical” foreign policy aint it?
The PM had been speaking days after official US documents released on the WikiLeaks website alleged that Pakistani security forces were colluding with the Taliban on Afghanistan. But Pakistan furiously denied the claims and accused the Prime Minister of basing his remarks on flawed information. Protesters even burned an effigy of Mr Cameron on the streets of Karachi. The cheek of him accusing Pakistan of looking both ways when he has to check with his senior partner before he burps.
Yesterday, officials insisted the informal talks between the two men had been “warm and constructive”. However, the Pakistani president appeared to have wangled a number of pledges from the Prime Minister, including that Mr Cameron would visit Pakistan soon.
Didn’t I tell you he wanted something?
During the hour-long meeting, Mr Cameron also agreed to help Pakistan increase trade with the European Union. In addition, Home Secretary Theresa May will visit Pakistan this autumn (something for them to look forward to); William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, will work more closely with his Pakistani counterpart; and the two countries will hold an annual summit to build closer co-operation.
Speaking outside Chequers, Mr Cameron said “The President and I have been talking about what we see as an unbreakable relationship between Britain and Pakistan based on our mutual interests.”
Mr Zardari was equally warm but appeared more willing than the Prime Minister to acknowledge the simmering tensions behind their talks. He said “[Britain and Pakistan’s] friendship will never break, no matter what happens,” he said. “Storms will come and storms will go, and Pakistan and Britain will stand together.” Get the dig in Zardi old boy!
President Zardari had already visited Chequers on Thursday night for an informal dinner accompanied by his son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whom he introduced to the Prime Minister.
Opposition parties in Pakistan have claimed that this week’s visit was merely a ruse by Mr Zardari to kick start the political career of Bilawal, who has just finished university but is tipped as a future leader of his country.
There you are then quite a shopping list. But DC should be used to being used by foreign politicians. There is quite a long queue US President first, then US Senators, President of Turkey, PM of India and now President of Pakistan. Of course they are not admitting to any nuclear sharing, but I will be betting that President Zardari will be over here finding out what India got and trying to get the same!