Pakistan visit: Transcript of Foreign Secretary's FCO press conference

After his visit to Pakistan the Foreign Secretary held an FCO press conference.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon William Hague

William Hague (WH): … and to be able to see more of Pakistan than I’ve been able to see before on previous visits as Shadow Foreign Secretary in particular getting out of Islamabad and going to Karachi and really seeing a bit more of the, of the country because I’m very conscious that seeing a capital city is not always representative of a country, and of course that is probably particularly true of Islamabad. So I went with, with the objective of signalling that the new British Government wants a, a long term and close partnership with Pakistan, that of course that includes good relations between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Pakistan but that it involves much more than that, which I’ll come to in a moment.

I think we have that, that, those good relations between Governments. I spent some time with President Zardari with whom I had dinner, with Prime Minister Gilani, and I had almost more meetings than I can count with the Foreign Minister, Mr Qureshi, who I of course had a major bilateral meeting with and lunch when I first arrived, but I saw him on several other occasions as well and went to his house on the Friday to talk about some of the lessons (indistinct) some of the lessons of the visit; also met the Interior Minister and the Finance Minister. And so I, I, I think we have a, a good working relationship with the Government of Pakistan and of course we, we will welcome many of them to London over the coming months and continue that relationship.

I think also it, then going down to Karachi it was interesting for me to meet provincial leaders. I met the Chief Minister and the Governor of Sindh. And in Karachi I met the Pakistan Business Council and the members of the stock Exchange and saw something of the business life of Karachi. And I think this is a very positive element in the relationship between the UK and Pakistan, that there is act, there is, there is more of a business opportunity than anybody has yet taken full advantage of. The, the business, of course there, there is quite a lot of trade and the United Kingdom is already the second largest overseas investor in Pakistan and we do have over a billion pounds’ worth of trade flows between the countries, but I think there is more potential and I have just mentioned in a speech to the CBI President’s Committee of industrial leaders in this country that there is more potential in the relationship with Pakistan and for businesses to do more together (indistinct) between the UK and, and Pakistan.

So for me, and I, I feel particularly strongly that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office must be doing more over the coming years to promote economic links and economic opportunity, that was a very important dimension to the visit and I also took the opportunity to speak to the media in, to your colleagues in Pakistan as often as possible, I think I had three press conferences, and did many television interviews, because I want the people of Pakistan to know that the United Kingdom wants that long term relationship and friendship between the United Kingdom and Pakistan and that although there are of course concerns that we have and work that we do together in counter terrorism and we talk about Afghanistan it’s, it’s too easy to only see danger, it’s important to see opportunity as well. And, and I want the people of Pakistan to know that and that we see that opportunity in the relationship, and that that means building on the diaspora in this country which is about a million strong. That represents hundreds of thousands of personal connections, family connections, sometimes business connections, that should be seen as an opportunity by both countries, and where there are successful people, where there are good role models in that diaspora we should be celebrating them in this country.

I, I noted with pleasure that the, the presence of Sayeeda Warsi as Chairman of the Conservative Party had been very well received in Pakistan and she will be visiting Pakistan as well in the not too distant future, so you can see that there is already a pattern emerging of senior Ministerial visits. Andrew Mitchell the International Development Secretary was in Pakistan two weeks before me. Now I have been, Sayeeda Warsi will be going I’m not exactly sure when yet but in, as I say in the, in the not too distant future.

So we are acting at the beginning as we mean to go on in intensifying the relationship with Pakistan. We are looking at ways to deepen and broaden the strategic dialogue, the UK Pakistan strategic dialogue which I discussed with Foreign Minister Qureshi, given that we view Pakistan as a long term strategic partner. We are giving more development aid. Andrew Mitchell announced on his visit and I also announced that we will over the next four years give six hundred and sixty five million pounds of aid to Pakistan, this is one of our largest aid programmes now in the world, it includes two hundred and fifty million pounds for education, particularly primary education since literacy is obviously a major issue in Pakistan, and it includes fifty million pounds to support reconstruction in the conflict affected areas bordering Afghanistan.

On the subject of which when I was there I paid tribute to the resilience of the Pakistani people, the sacrifices they have made in fight, fighting violent extremism, the, it, it often isn’t understood well enough in Western countries how much the armed forces of Pakistan have been called upon to do and how thousands of their members have given their lives in that struggle against violent extremism. So I hope I got that message across on the, on the visit to Pakistan. And I reinforced, and I’ll let you ask questions because I could go on about this for ever of course, but the, I reinforced on the visit our support for Pakistan’s democratic institutions which has been long standing from the United Kingdom and the Governments of whatever party, and of course we support those democratic institutions. Now we see the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment as a further entrenchment of Pakistan’s democratic institutions and we want them to succeed for the long term future because that’s good for Pakistan and it’s good for stability, freedom and democracy in the region.

So I felt it was a good visit, that I couldn’t have asked for me from our Pakistani hosts, I was able to see everybody I wanted to see and to speak to the people of Pakistan in many different ways, and that it is the start of a, a long term effort to build closer political and business links which will be energetically continued under the new Coalition Government in Britain.

So that in summary is what it was all about but you will no doubt have many questions about that and other aspects of our relations with Pakistan.

Unidentified Female Aide: Thank you very much Foreign Secretary (indistinct).

First Unidentified Journalist: My name is (indistinct) Ali Shah, I’m a (indistinct) professional journalist. Foreign Secretary can I ask you about the British foreign policy? It seems to us, most of the journalists in this country as well as around the world, that your foreign policy is inextricably intertwined with the American foreign policy.

Would you foresee a point of time when your foreign policy can be disassociated with the American foreign policy which is very dangerous globally and the Afghanistan occupation is also a very, very intricate problem , very complex. Seventy three per cent population of this country is against the occupation of Afghanistan. The population of this country would like you to withdraw your troops immediately without condition, without anything.

Now if this is a democratic country why do you not follow the will of the people of this country? Sixty three per cent Americans are against the Afghanistan war so what actually are you (indistinct)? How long are you going to stay in Afghanistan?

WH: Well the Prime Minister’s spoken about that over the weekend as you know, about his hopes that our troops will be home from Afghanistan before the next election, over the next five years. We are a democratic country, the parties that are, that were elected to Government in this country explained in the election the approach we would take to Afghanistan, so of course that is democracy in action and we were elected on that basis.

Similarly we, we’ve, I discussed Afghanistan a great deal as you can imagine with the members of the Pakistani Government who are building closer links with the Afghan Government and I welcome those links, I think there’s a strong relationship now between President Zardari and President Karzai. The Afghan Foreign Minister Mr Rasul had been to visit Foreign Minister Qureshi during the course of my visit, so I was able to hear more about those talks. So the, the Government in Pakistan are working closely now with the legitimate Government of Afghanistan and it’s at the invitation of the legitimate Government of Afghanistan that we are in Afghanistan and under a United Nations mandate. So it’s important that our work there succeeds. I know people have strong opinions about it but we are only there until the people of Afghanistan can conduct their own affairs without present, presenting any danger to the rest of the world, including to Pakistan.

On your question, which leads to your question about the foreign policy of the United States, the United States is our, is a close ally of this country and it will remain so, there’s no doubt about that, but we are also developing here what I call a distinctive British foreign policy. That’s not in conflict with our alliance with the United States, but it does involve intensifying the links with other countries in the world in our own way, in our own British way. And that is what, that is part of what I was doing in Pakistan last week. So that’s not in conflict with the US policy but it is us in Britain saying look there may be dangers but there are opportunities here too and we should see this positively and take full advantage of it over the next few years.

Unidentified Female Aide: Thank you. I’ll take one from this side (indistinct).

**Second Unidentified Journalist: ** My name’s (indistinct). Every time (indistinct) going to Pakistan is going to the (indistinct) situation there seem so many changes that (indistinct), relations with India, relations with Afghanistan, even relations with United States and UK because of their policies which are not like, like (indistinct) Pakistan but (indistinct) ruling class it is good. So you have met Mr Asif Ali Zardari (indistinct) from (indistinct) and you have also met (indistinct) Nawaz Sharif …

WH: Yes I, I should have mentioned that, I met Mr Sharif, yeah.

Second Unidentified Journalist: So what is your impression, really is the Government, the Pakistani Government is going in the right direction to (indistinct) the situation or do you think that it is something false or some situation is (indistinct) by (indistinct) institution?

WH: Well we, we support institutions, not individuals or parties, you know, it’s, you wouldn’t expect me to choose between the Government and opposition in Pakistan any more than a Pakistani politician coming here between the Labour or Conservative parties. Well you might want me to but I’m not, I wouldn’t do that.

What we support are successful democratic institutions which allow for changes of Government, for peaceful changes of Government. And so that, that’s our concern, we’re not supporting any individual agenda, we don’t align ourselves with any particular party in Pakistan, we will work with whoever is in office and whoever is also a responsible opposition. And it’s very much been the approach of Mr Nawaz Sharif to be a constructive opposition. So we would like to have good relations across politics in, in Pakistan. And again that was, that was part of my visit, to ensure that we have those good relations.

So I, I, it’s not my, I don’t see it as my business to say the, you know, the Government is doing everything right or that it’s doing things wrong. We do recognise that Pakistan faces formidable challenges, particularly in education, in, in water supplies, in energy supplies, in, in security of course, in relations with its neighbours, you know of course these are real, these are serious challenges for any country. But that is why we want to help, why we want to expand the British relationship with Pakistan, not judging everything that their Ministers do, but in the long term, whoever those Ministers are, if they’re the product of the democratic institutions of Pakistan, strengthening the British relationship. So that’s the, so I’m afraid I have to, I can’t directly answer your question, but that’s, that’s our approach.

Unidentified Female Aide: Mr Qureshi

**Dr Shahid Qureshi (SQ) - Presenter, Frontier Post: **Thank you, Dr Shahid Qureshi, the Presenter of Frontier Post …

Unidentified Female Aide: Can I just ask you to make your questions slightly short ‘cause we’re running out of time please ….

SQ: … okay.

Unidentified Female Aide: … thank you.

SQ: As you mentioned that Britain support the democratic institutions in Pakistan and you are offering aid as well to Pakistan (indistinct) state, but at the same time the perception in Pakistan itself is that the Pakistan, that Britain is supporting the most corrupt regime, the corrupt politicians who have millions and billions of dollars invested in Britain and Western countries. So if those investments or illegal money who (indistinct) money laundering that (indistinct) Sharif mentioned, if that money is returned back to those poor states including Pakistan would, do you think it would sort of enhance the education, you might not need to give any, any more aid to Pakistan if (indistinct) I mean between the two politicians about four billion dollars, so this, which has come down to about three years American aid to Pakistan.

So do you think, I mean it’s very practical I mean I’m talking about that when Britain connect with the people of Pakistan, not with the politicians. You did mention the institution, could you please comment on that?

WH: Yes, well as you can gather from what I was saying I was doing my best on the visit to connect with the people. It’s always hard as a visiting politician to know whether you have done so but I gave many interviews and appeared on the television in Pakistan very frequently during that three days, but it’s, we deal with the, with the Government, you know again we’re not, as I explained in answer to the earlier question, we’re not judging anybody, any of the things that you’re just talking about really are for Pakistanis to address themselves. But we will deal with the, with the legitimate Government of Pakistan to improve the links between the, between the UK and Pakistan. So I can’t make any judgement about the things that you have described …

SQ: Well we do (indistinct) make judgements about Mugabe in Zimbabwe, all kind of comments about his credibility, his, his legitimacy so I think surely we can compare the two when we look at the corruption, the, the Parliament who are making the half of them or majority of them have fake degrees, so that can give you the level of education. I know it’s, it’s inside Pakistan but this is a perception …

WH: Yeah.

SQ: … that we are considered as somebody who’s backing these people and each time any crisis happens somebody from Washington or London goes and pat each other’s back as they go together. This is the perception coming from the streets …

WH: Well would say two things, one is that we do, we need to deal with whoever is the elected Government, you know, the controversies about how they’re elected, whether they should have been elected are really for Pakistan, not for us. But we, but I, I would stress that we are broadening, we’re trying to broaden that relationship, that’s why I went to see the business community as well, that’s why I spent a lot of time with the media, that’s why, you know, that we’re giving, putting in development aid that does go directly to help the people of Pakistan.

So I think it’s important to understand it’s not just a politician to politician relationship, we are seeing it as something broader that involves millions of people and we want to encourage that in the British Government and I hope people will be open to that message because it is a, it’s a clear message from a new Government in Britain and so I hope people will at least give it a bit of consideration.

Unidentified Female Aide: Thank you Mr Guri.

Mr Guri: (Indistinct) Guri from (indistinct). Foreign Secretary, the latest timing which has just come for five years’ possible stay in Afghanistan from General Richard and of course repeated by yourself as well. We have seen that both Washington and London, there is a feeling among people, not the Government, that maybe the military generals are being forced by politicians to say what (indistinct). Now five years, you have just mentioned five years is (indistinct) time, in the case of President Obama we know that when he succeeds in his surge policy and starts (indistinct) and he’ll be ready for his you know most probably second election.

Is this the case that you know delinking, clear delinking, from military and politics, (indistinct) politics, whatever the time frame is coming, that if he say that you know whatever the reports are saying, that the policy is maybe wrong, we can not win (indistinct) Taliban (indistinct) could end up saying the CIA (indistinct). You must be aware of that, that we’re going to (indistinct) defeat here in Afghanistan as far as Washington and London is concerned.

WH: No I don’t, I don’t think that would be, I don’t think that would be the correct assessment. It’s interesting when you go to Afghanistan of course you see many more positive things than people might notice sitting here. There are major security improvements taking place. I was in Helmand Province last month walking around in a place called Nadi Ali, going to the bazaar, seeing local people going to the clinic in a way that a British Minister couldn’t have done a year ago. So there are security improvements taking place on the ground and there’s no doubt that the, the capabilities of Afghan National Security Forces are increasing quite rapidly, and there’s also no doubt that there are some capable Ministers among the Afghan Government Ministers who are preparing for the Kabul Conference. This will be an important test, an important moment, the Kabul Conference, which I will attend next month to, for us to see whether the progress that was agreed on at the London Conference in, in January is really being followed up on, and we want to see the Afghan Government making that progress on governance, on tackling corruption and imp, improving their, their economic capability, looking after their citizens better.

So those things are, a lot of that is taking place. Is it still very difficult? Well yes it is. And we recognise that by I think spending more time on Afghanistan than, than any other issues (indistinct) a foreign policy issues as a new Government. So we are giving it a lot our attention. But there are a lot of thing going right as well as some things that are difficult and things that go wrong, and no we’re not, we’re, we’re not accepting the, what you said at the end of your question, we are giving the international strategy in Afghanistan the time and support necessary for it to succeed. So that is our, that’s our position and we will be sticking to it over the coming months. But the Kabul Conference is a very important moment.

Unidentified Female Aide: Mr Hajmi.

Mr Hajmi (Associated Press of Pakistan): (Indistinct) Hajmi from the Associated Press of Pakistan. In your talk with the business community in Pakistan what areas were you able to identify where a British company could further invest in Pakistan?

And secondly that six hundred and sixty five million pound aid that has been announced by the British Government, that was announced by the British, the previous Government, but would there be any cuts in that aid because of the, you know the cuts in the public spending?

WH: No there won’t be any cuts in it, it’s more than announced by the previous Government and it won’t be cut. It will not be involved in any cuts in spending.

As to specific areas of the, a, a politician can’t always lay down where businesses can invest, there are clearly opportunities in things like infrastructure, you know which is, which is a clear need in, in Pakistan. And there are a lot of British companies involved there, there are clearly opportunities in some of the banking relationships, but it’s right across the board there is a business opportunity, you know, it’s, I thought in Karachi there were some really go ahead business leaders who welcomed the idea of, of working more with British businesses, really right across the whole range of business and industrial sectors. Your tape has come to an end …

Mr Hajmi: Both of them.

WH: … both of them …

Mr Hajmi: (Indistinct).

WH: … now you’ll have to remember what I say …

Mr Hajmi: Third one is here.

WH: … the third one is there. So you know I, I formed a broad impression that there was scope for more and as I say I’ve already said that to the Confederation of British Industry and we will follow it up in, in more detail. So I, I think across a wide range of economic sectors.

Unidentified Female Aide: Thank you (indistinct). Three very quick questions, we’ve got a couple of minutes …

WH: Three questions, three (indistinct) and quick, and quick answers yes.

Third Unidentified Journalist: Ladies first.

Fourth Unidentified Journalist: (Indistinct). I just want to go back, you know, the India Pakistan relationships are key to hold peace and stability in the region …

WH: Yes.

Fourth Unidentified Journalist: … I just want to know any common agenda point that come up in your meeting with the Pakistani officials to (indistinct) to ease the relationship between the two countries or …

WH: Well we will always welcome improvements in relations. We can’t bring them about on our own and indeed many of my predecessors have gone down quite badly in the region from trying to lecture people about relations between India and Pakistan so we will, we will warmly encourage and support improvements in relations. I was pleased to see the, the range of bilateral meetings taking place including between the two Foreign Secretaries, or in our terms it would be the Permanent Secretaries, they had the Heads of the Civil Service of the Foreign Offices in India and Pakistan last week. There are a whole range of meetings leading up to the meeting of the Foreign Ministers I think on the 15th of July. So I have made clear both to Pakistan and India that we strongly welcome that, but Britain can not lay down how those meetings take place, we are not a colonial power. You know it is, so we will encourage that, meet them (indistinct) improvements between two countries that are both friendly with the United Kingdom but we can’t dictate the terms of the pace of that improvement in relations.

Unidentified Female Aide: Asif.

**Asif: **Asif (indistinct) from (indistinct) Radio in London. First of all, congratulations …

WH: Thank you.

Asif: … by becoming the Foreign Secretary of a Coalition Government and also a party that has (indistinct) two previous leaders in the party.

My question is about you talk about the values, you talk about the hope and courage, and you also talk about the institutions. Whereas you have been in the politics and the Britain and Pakistan have been close through the history, that in Pakistan democracy is less than institution, more personalities and individualism. There is a tradition of heritage and (indistinct).

What do you think in terms of the issues which are the world issues concerning to the Commonwealth countries, how would you think that the British Government or the British democracy can play any role in order to exchange the values of democracy on the (indistinct) ground rather than on the basis of pick and choose?

WH: Well we, as I, as I’ve stressed we can’t, we don’t pick and choose among the, the politicians of another country. You know the, that country must make its own decisions. I think the, I think that Britain must be a …


WH: … somebody else’s tape, I’m obviously talking for too long. Britain must be a good example of democratic values and freedoms. I, I think we have to …

Fifth Unidentified Journalist: It’s the hot weather doing it.

WH: The hot weather. Well I’ll just carry on. We have to accept that we can’t impose our values on other countries, we can be a good example of our own values in terms of political freedom and what I would call economic liberalism and human rights and humanitarian assistance and development aid and so on. We can be a good example in Britain of these things. But our power to impose our values on other countries is much weaker than it would have been thirty or forty years ago, or certainly than a hundred years ago.

So we can help, but it, you know, we can have, we can build links between Governments, parliaments, businesses. I should have mentioned I also went to the Parliament to address the Foreign Affairs Committee of the, of the Members of Parliament of Pakistan. We can do all of that and we can encourage other people to go, other politicians, other businesses to, and so, so there is a, an exchange of values and so that the strength of British democratic institutions is part of what the Pakistani leaders experience, I think we can do all of that, but we can’t impose them on other countries, nor should we seek to do so. That would be my (indistinct) …

Sixth Unidentified Journalist: What do you think is the (indistinct) …

Unidentified Female Aide: Sorry I’m going to have to stop you …

WH: We’re going to have, yes I’ve (indistinct) …

Unidentified Female Aide: … one, one very last question …

WH: … run out of time so one, one last question.

Unidentified Female Aide: … we have thirty seconds Sir.

Seventh Unidentified Journalist: (Indistinct) the, our troops are in Afghanistan for the development of the country, for the security and peace and welfare of the people, but (indistinct) the people on the street in Afghanistan (indistinct) the schools, library, the schools and hospitals for the health and education, then the money which (indistinct) spending for, on the troops, keeping the troops there in Afghanistan it would be better used, if it can be used for the establishment of education in the schools or on hospitals.

WH: And with the Taliban? They had a lot of schools built did they?

Seventh Unidentified Journalist: No but they are, they are (indistinct) about this (indistinct) …

WH: No well if, unless we can provide (indistinct) …

Eighth Unidentified Journalist: And you want to get rid of students.

WH: … unless we can provide security in Afghanistan we can’t provide the schools and the hospitals you know. In the, in the town that I mentioned where I went for a walk around and met people in Afghanistan, in Nadi Ali, it’s only because British troops have brought security to that town that a clinic can be opened that is then helping the health care of local people. Of course it, it would be a wonderful world if we only had to spend money on schools and health care and nothing on, on armaments but in the condition in Afghanistan at the moment security is necessary in order to provide development and I don’t think there would be much development without that security.

And that’s why the, the people of Afghanistan in a town like that strongly welcome the presence of NATO forces and I think in most surveys they don’t want NATO forces to be withdrawn from Afghanistan, the people themselves. So I think it’s very important to bear that in mind when we debate these issues which I understand are controversial.

Okay well I’ve, I’ve gone over my time …

Unidentified Female Aide: Thank you very much for (indistinct) …

WH: … but thank you very much for coming along…

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Published 23 June 2010