New British foreign secretary to visit Pakistan

Afp May 26, 2010

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary William Hague will visit Pakistan “in the next few weeks” he said on Wednesday, pledging to work more closely with Islamabad on Afghanistan and other issues.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s new coalition government would pursue a “broad strategy of engagement” with Islamabad focusing on security, education and the strengthening of democratic institutions,” he added. “I intend to visit Pakistan in the next few weeks because of its close connection with the issues that we’ve been discussing in Afghanistan,” Hague told the House of Commons during a debate on foreign affairs. “We will explore with Pakistan ways to strengthen our bilateral relationship, building on so many shared goals and longstanding ties between Britain and Pakistan,” Hague said. When he visited Washington earlier this month Hague said he had agreed with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to work together in relation to Pakistan.

“It is crucial that the United States and Britain work extremely closely to coordinate our efforts in Pakistan given the colossal American resources that are deployed in Pakistan and the enormous British expertise that exists,” he said. The foreign secretary visited Afghanistan at the weekend with Defence Secretary Liam Fox, who called for the 9,000 British troops deployed there to come home as soon as possible.

Hague said on Wednesday that Afghanistan was his “top foreign policy priority” and the objective was to “help Afghans reach the point where they can look after their own security without presenting a danger to the rest of the world”. “The sooner they are able to do this, the sooner our troops... who make such sacrifices would be able to come home,” he added.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 27th, 2010.