LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempt to mend fragile relations with Pakistan have been dashed after he was snubbed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, UK Daily Mail reported on Wednesday.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office denied that a visit to to the country had been denied to the British Prime Minister. Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit, while talking to Express 24/7 denied the claims, saying that Cameron is welcome to visit Pakistan.
Cameron wanted to visit the country to try and patch up contact with Pakistan, after he said the country “faced both ways on terror” during a visit to India. He had asked to go to Islamabad, on his way to Afghanistan. But his attempt to invite himself ended in a firm refusal, as Prime Minister Gilani said he did not want to be ‘tagged on’ to a visit to Afghanistan, according to the Daily Mail. Cameron often tries to squeeze several countries into a single foreign visit, as busy PM has to try and deal with the recession and cuts agenda at home.
His last trip to the region ended with Cameron causing great offence, first to Pakistan for casting doubt on its commitment to fighting terror, and second to Israel for criticizing their treatment of Palestinians while he was addressing Turkey.
He tried to arrange the visit a month ago. At press conference in Presidential Palace in Kabul, Cameron failed to repeat his controversial remark that Pakistan faced “both ways on terror.” He hailed Pakistan’s “progress” in clearing up terrorism camps in Swat valley.
Whitehall sources admitted that, “They said timing wasn’t great for them. They were not sure the Prime Minister would be there.”
Cameron also had to sidestep embarrassing questions over Wikileaks files, in which President Karzai had questioned effectiveness of British forces in Helmand province. British PM shrugged off comments as not relevant and referring to a time when British troops were deployed too thinly across the region.
“If you look back to 2006, 2007, 2008, it’s clear now that we didn’t have enough troops in Helmand to deliver the security that was necessary,” Cameron said. “Of course there are frustrations… but relationship between last premier, this prime minister and Hamid Karzai is strong.”
Cameron also raised possibility of troops being withdrawn from early next year. “We are cautiously optimistic we have right strategy. We are now a year or so into that. We have put in resources to back up that strategy which has a very clear focus, a focus on national security.”
Questioned by Afghan media about how Britain could use its influence with Islamabad to stop Islamic schools (madrassas), Cameron said that “we do have a very long term relationship with Pakistan. One of our largest embassies anywhere in the world is in Islamabad.’
President Karzai had to sidestep questions over why he had been disparaging over British troops in WikiLeaks cables. “Britain remained a steadfast supporter of Afghanistan. WikiLeaks documents are having some truths and some not so truths in them. Britain has contributed in its sacrifice of its soldiers… for which Afghan people are grateful.”