Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani arrived at 10 Downing Street on Thursday to meet with his British counterpart David Cameron and review the progress made under the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue between Pakistan and the UK.
During Premier Gilani’s five-day state visit to Britain, the British prime minister categorically stated that the UK will be an “enduring friend” to the government and the people of Pakistan and vowed to build a “deeper and stronger relationship”.
Both countries also vowed to strengthen bilateral trade to £2.5 billion by 2015 as part of “a jointly-owned” Pakistan-UK Trade and Investment Roadmap.
“Both countries are committed to working together as equals to create conditions for greater prosperity and security in Pakistan and the UK,” a joint-statement issued at the end of the talks said.
Regarding democracy, the joint-statement noted it was an “important time for Pakistan” and the current government was the “longest-serving civilian government in the country’s history”.
The prime ministers discussed trade, economic growth and development, cultural co-operation, security and education and reviewed the progress being made since the two leaders made the commitment in April 2011 in Islamabad for a deeper and broader dialogue.
They also discussed the shared national security challenges and the cooperation in counter-terrorism.
Prime Minister Cameron also pledged his support for a return to international cricket being played in Pakistan and offered to share the UK’s experience in protecting large sporting events. The visiting Pakistani delegation was briefed on the UK’s preparations for the Olympics.
Prime Minister Gilani also briefed his British counterpart on the recommendations approved by parliament regarding reengagement with the US as well as the ongoing Pakistan-India peace process.
Pak-UK Trade and Investment Roadmap
The leaders agreed upon “a jointly-owned” Pakistan-UK Trade and Investment Roadmap to actively pursue joint activities on trade and investment promotion.
The roadmap aims at creating a UK-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce in Pakistan to complement existing trade bodies in the UK and to develop business ties with such entities.
Both premiers urged UK companies to look at the opportunities Pakistani markets present and build on the success of the over 100 UK-based companies already engaged in business with Pakistan.
Prime Minister Gilani pledged his government’s full support in ensuring an enabling business environment to attract and sustain UK trade with, and investment in, Pakistan.
Pinning the responsibility on the rest of the world and a “universal intelligence failure”, Prime Minister Gilani categorically denied that Pakistan was “complicit” in sheltering former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“There is no complicity. I think it’s an intelligence failure from all over the world,” Premier Gilani said in an interview with The Guardian.
The premier also denied that Pakistan’s military was aware of Bin Laden’s hideouts, or had deliberately withheld information about his whereabouts.
Responding to Hillary Clinton
Responding to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s claim that al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri was residing in Pakistan, the prime minister denied having any information about it.
He instead pleaded that such intelligence be shared with Pakistani authorities.
He gave the same response when asked about reports that suggested Taliban leader Mullah Omar was present in the country. “The CIA is far more powerful than Pakistan’s intelligence service, and would have a better idea about that.”
Relations with other countries
Premier Gilani also admitted to The Guardian that relations with the US have not been “too normal” of late, but maintained that the premier intelligence agencies of both countries have been working together to “achieve” their high-level targets.
On relations with India, Gilani said that Pakistan was “serious” about resolving all core issues with India, including the thorny subjects of Kashmir and Siachen.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM NEWS DESK AND APP)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2012.
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