Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday kept British Foreign Secretary William Hague abreast of all backdoor initiatives to revive the composite dialogue process with India.
The premier expressed his government’s desire to improve relations with all countries, especially those in the country’s immediate vicinity, during their meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Pakistan’s commitment to support all initiatives aimed at promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, and reviving back channel diplomacy with India is firm and strong,” he told Britain’s top diplomat.
Prime Minister Nawaz, who also holds the portfolio of foreign affairs, also discussed cooperation between Pakistan and the UK with regards to the war on terror, the situation in Afghanistan and other issues of mutual interest with the British foreign secretary. The two also discussed Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of the US-led Nato forces from the latter next year.
The premier assured Secretary Hague that Pakistan would continue cooperating with the international community to establish peace in it war-torn neighbour. The latter, in return, expressed full support for all Pakistani initiatives to ensure regional stability, and reaffirmed Britain’s desire to contribute to Pakistan’s development and prosperity.
“Pakistan has a vital role in Afghanistan and its endeavors for peace [in this regard] are commendable,” he told the prime minister. Hague also offered to assist Pakistan in developing a counter-terrorism strategy.
Premier Nawaz and Secretary Hague also discussed measures to revitalise Pakistan’s economy, tackle the country’s energy crisis and improve its security situation. The prime minister also requested the UK’s support for Pakistan’s efforts to secure the GSP plus status with the European Union.
The two leaders focused particularly on the Government of Pakistan’s priorities of revitalizing the economy, dealing with the energy crisis, creating a pro-business and pro-investment climate, and improving the security situation. The Prime Minister also requested Britain’s continued support for Pakistan’s efforts to secure GSP plus status with the European Union.
According to sources at the PM’s Office, the issues discussed at the meeting also included the investigations against MQM chief Altaf Hussain, security for Malala Yousafzai if she returns to Pakistan, the deadlock in the Qatar process, the US drone campaign in the country’s tribal areas and the recent revelations pertaining to cyber-espionage by the US.
Both the leaders agreed on cooperating with each other and resolving all important and sensitive matters through classified measures in the larger interest of the countries, the sources added.
Hague was accompanied by the British High Commissioner in Islamabad and other senior officials. Prime Minister Nawaz, meanwhile, was assisted by his Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, his Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani.
Hague’s visit to Lahore
The British foreign secretary also visited Lahore on Thursday, meeting with businessmen and entrepreneurs at an event hosted by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
After hearing about the success of British companies’ investments in Pakistan and future opportunities in the country, Hague stressed the importance the British government places on building stronger trad links with Pakistan.
“The ties that join the UK and Pakistan are as strong as ever. Our two countries are joined by bonds that are long lasting and deep. Trade is a central part of this relationship. We have recently pledged to increase bilateral trade to £3 billion by 2015,” he said while speaking to Chief Minister Shahbaz and the entrepreneurs in attendance.
“Over 100 British companies are operating successfully in Pakistan and the second annual trade conference will be hosted by London this autumn to encourage more companies to follow their success,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.