Pakistan visit: Transcript of Foreign Secretary's press conference

The Foreign Secretary spoke at a press conference during his visit to Pakistan

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

William Hague (WH): … it’s a great personal pleasure to be able to work with Foreign Minister Qureshi. We’ve known each other for some years but this is the first time, now I am the new Foreign Secretary of Britain, that we can actually really work together. And I think we’ve seen in these discussions that there are so many things that we can do together, that our Governments can do in the coming months and years to build an even stronger relationship between the United Kingdom and Pakistan. And we are very, very determined to, to do that.

The new British Government is very strongly committed to a long term, productive and friendly partnership with Pakistan. We will build on what previous Governments have achieved but a new Government is always an opportunity to put some new momentum in to a relationship and in to the work that we do together. So we want to maintain and strengthen the relationship that our countries enjoy and see our relations with Pakistan as relations that bring enormous opportunity in business, in culture, in education. We’re very proud of that one million strong Diaspora in the United Kingdom, in fact seven of them are now Members of Parliament and one of them is Chairman of the Conservative Party and we’re very proud of that as well.

We’re keen to deepen the UK Pakistan strategic dialogue of which the Foreign Minister has spoken. We view Pakistan as a long term strategic partner with whom we would welcome even closer relations and I think our, the, the multiplicity of the connections, the, the personal and business and family connections between Britain and Pakistan give us a particular role in supporting Pakistan’s democratic future.

It’s a partnership in which we can sort out problems, bilateral issues including over visas, as Foreign Minister said we discussed that today. But it’s one in which today I also want to pay tribute to the resilience of the Pakistani people, the sacrifices they’ve made, the commitment they’ve shown in tackling violent extremism (recording ends briefly) … for us and a democratic future is vital to all our interests including in the UK.

We’re committed to helping, some of you will know that my colleague the International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, was here a couple of weeks ago and we are increasing the development aid that we give to Pakistan to six hundred and sixty five million pounds over the next four years including a two hundred and fifty million pound education programme and fifty million pounds to support stabilisation and reconstruction in areas affected by conflict bordering on Afghanistan.

And we want, of course, to work with Pakistan to achieve our shared goals of lasting stability and security in Afghanistan. We recognise that Pakistan has a particular interest in that as do other countries in the region and the key is a genuinely representative political outcome that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all Afghan citizens.

I’m going, I welcome the opportunity tomorrow to address the business community in Pakistan; the United Kingdom is the second largest overseas investor in Pakistan. There is over a billion pounds of trade flows between our countries so on all of these subjects and many others we’ve had good discussions today and we’re looking forward to a strong personal partnership that symbolises an extremely strong relationship between our Governments and our countries, thank you very much.

Unnamed journalist: What is the British Government’s response on the report of London the School of Economics?

WH: Well the, the Pakistan Government has made its denials of those reports and my response when asked about it was to salute the efforts of Pakistan in fighting terrorism and extremism. To say what I have just said to you earlier today that Pakistan has made enormous sacrifices in terms of immense military effort, many thousands of soldiers in Pakistan have lost their lives in battling against violent extremism. And so I think that must be understood all over the world and it’s certainly something that I understand very well.

Unnamed journalist: Thank you very much. I have this paper, the programme of coalition of your Government and in the, in the chapter of foreign policy you stated that the UK (indistinct) Government, new Government will have a special relation with India. Can I know that what are the dimensions of special relations with India?

My second brief question is that you are desiring for a special relation with India and putting Afghanistan on your top priority, how do you characterise your relation with Pakistan? Thank you.

WH: Right. Yes the United, the new Government of the United Kingdom is embarking on elevating our relationship with many countries outside Europe and North America. You will understand that our relations with the European Union are of vital importance and that our alliance with the United States is very important to the United Kingdom but beyond that we have to recognise that the, the world economy is changing in many ways. That the fastest growing economies of the world are outside Europe and North America and so we will be seeking to elevate our economic relationship and our cultural and educational relationship with many countries beyond Europe and North America.

Yes India is one of those countries but we want an equally strong relationship with Pakistan and there are other countries such as Brazil and other Latin American countries that we would put in this category. And so we will be making a particular effort to, to do that, to intensify those bilateral relations and that’s why I’ve come, that’s one of the reasons I’ve come to Pakistan as one of my first calls as the new Foreign Secretary to emphasise that that improvement in bilateral relations, that improvement in, in broadening relations over the long term applies to Pakistan as well as we see it. And I think as we’ve agreed today there is enormous potential for that. We don’t see what we’ve said about India as in any way, it is not meant to be and it isn’t in any way contradicting anything we’ve said about Pakistan because, of course, we welcome improvements in relations between India and Pakistan as well. So we see it in that light and we will pursue it consistently.

Unnamed journalist: Mr British Foreign Secretary you have just said that you want to see improvement of relations between India and Pakistan and you admitted Pakistan is a good friend. So there are two major issues between India and Pakistan, as follow up of my colleague’s question, one is the Kashmir dispute and the second one is more important than Kashmir is the water, the survival for Pakistan. So India is denying to give Pakistan’s due share of water. How you can help Pakistan in getting its due share of water from India and how you will play your role in resolving this water dispute between Pakistan and India. Thank you.

WH: Well we will be, somebody has their telephone on, we will be a sufficiently strong friend to Pakistan and India to know not to try to tell them how to resolve their bilateral issues and not to lecture them about those issues. So, of course, we will always welcome, as will all other friends of Pakistan, such improvements in relations but it is not for the United Kingdom to lay down the solutions to those issues.

Unnamed journalist: I’d like to ask a question of the British Secretary, Foreign Secretary about Afghanistan since it’s a very important topic of discussion. There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding General McChrystal over the past twenty four hours and there’s talk of him possibly being replaced as NATO commander in Afghanistan. How concerned is Britain about that possibility and what kind of affect do you think it would have on the war effort on the ground in Afghanistan?

WH: Well we’re very committed to that NATO effort, as you know we’re the second largest contributor to that NATO effort. The British Prime Minister and I and all of our colleagues have stressed, stressed that in recent weeks and that we want to give the international strategy in Afghanistan the time and support to succeed alongside the important efforts following the peace Jurga to, to look to reconciliation as well as reintegration in, in Afghanistan. So we remain committed to that whatever controversies come and go and I’m not going to add to those controversies today. That’s, what happens on this particular controversy is a matter for the United States as well as for NATO as a whole, I don’t think it’s for the British Foreign Secretary to try to resolve that this afternoon.

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Published 23 June 2010