Press conference in Pakistan
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
A transcript of a press conference given by the Prime Minister David Cameron and Prime Minister of Pakistan in Islamabad on 5 April 2011.
A transcript of a press conference given by Prime Minister David Cameron and the Prime Minister of Pakistan in Islamabad on 5 April 2011.
Read the transcript:
Prime Minister Gilani:
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me a great pleasure to once again very warmly welcome Prime Minister David Cameron, and his delegation, to Pakistan. Excellency, this is your first visit to Pakistan as Britain’s Prime Minister. This visit signifies the immense importance of the abiding Pakistan-UK relationship. Our relations are rooted in history and are based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. Over one million British Pakistanis provide a living bridge between our two countries; they are an asset both for Britain and Pakistan.
Today we have formally launched the Pakistan-UK enhanced strategic dialogue. This is a significant step towards injecting further substance into our relations through regular interaction at the political level by promoting trade and investment, by strengthening our population in education and health sectors, by enhancing people-to-people contact and by creating better understanding of each other’s position on important regional and global issues. Today we have agreed to increase our bilateral trade to £2.5 billion by 2015, which at present is around £1.2 billion. We will work with the private sector to achieve this target. I have informed Prime Minister Cameron that Pakistan offers tremendous trade and investment opportunities for the UK with over 100 companies already doing successful business. In Pakistan is the best place to take advantage of these opportunities.
I thank the Prime Minister for the UK’s very able assistance in the wake of floods last year. We also greatly value the help in the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase. We are also very much appreciative of the UK’s partnership, especially in the sectors of education and health. We also discussed in detail the regional situation. I briefed the Prime Minister about my recent meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Mohali and the resumption of a dialogue process.
We also discussed Afghanistan. I apprised the Prime Minister of my vision on our brotherly neighbour, Afghanistan. Achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan is our strategic objective. In this regard Pakistan will continue supporting Afghan led and Afghan own efforts.
Excellency, let me conclude by saying that your visit to Pakistan has added enormous substance to Pakistan-UK relations. We are committed to further strengthening this relationship in all areas of life. When it comes to Pakistan-UK relations, the sky is the limit. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much indeed, Prime Minister Gilani, for the warm welcome that you’ve offered me and my team here in Islamabad. This is my first visit to Pakistan as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and it gives me great pleasure to be here. And let me begin by saying, without any hesitation, that Britain’s friendship with Pakistan is unbreakable. From the grass-root links between our peoples with one million strong Pakistani diaspora in the UK and 1.4 million journeys between Pakistan and the UK every single year, right through our links between our governments and the enhanced strategic dialogue we’ve just signed, there is no doubt about the strength of the Britain-Pakistan relationship. Let me just say a few words about three areas we covered today, first trade, second security and third education.
First of all trade, it is frequently said here that Pakistan needs trade more than aid and increasing British and European trade with Pakistan has been a high priority in our talks today. I’ve encouraged Prime Minister Gilani to continue on the path of economic reform and have pledged to encourage British business to increase their investments here. As evidence of our level of ambition we’ve agreed this new aspiration, which is to double bilateral trade in goods and services to £2.5 billion per year by 2015. Whether in the basic materials industry, whether in retailing, chemicals, financial services, there are real opportunities for British firms here in Pakistan, and I will also continue to advocate, as I have passionately, increased market access for Pakistan in Europe.
Second, security, we’ve had very good, very detailed, very practical discussions today in the first meeting of the UK-Pakistan National Security dialogue. This is an important new forum that brings together our civilian and our military experts together in a comprehensive way. Let me be absolutely clear: terrorism threatens both our countries, Pakistan has suffered greatly from it and we have no higher shared priority than tackling terrorism together. As we discussed in our dialogue today, that means challenging the extremist ideology that fuels it and ensuring effective operational cooperation between our police and intelligence agencies at the sharp end too. That is exactly what we’ve committed to doing.
We’ve also discussed the way ahead in Afghanistan and your vision for the future, as you put it, of your brotherly neighbour, including the importance of a political process to complement the military campaign. And we agreed on the importance of Afghanistan and Pakistan working closely together on this vital agenda.
Third, education, progress in this area has the potential, I believe, to transform Pakistan. More children in school could mean more skilled workers, more people out of poverty, more prosperity and more long term stability. So I confirmed to Prime Minister Gilani that Britain was committed to a new programme of assistance to put four million Pakistani children into school by 2015, to train 90,000 new teachers and to provide six million text books. I welcome Prime Minister Gilani’s decision to make education a priority as well as the commitments made by the provincial chief ministers. 2011 is Pakistan’s year of education and it is a moment of opportunity that Britain is determined to help you to seize.
So thank you again, Prime Minister, for our excellent talks today. We’ve made real progress on trade, on security and on education. We’ve also established an enhanced strategic dialogue and reaffirmed the bond of friendship between our two nations. Thank you. I believe we’ve got a British question first, I think you said, ‘Sky was the limit’, and we’ve got a question from Sky so, on cue.
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. I wonder if I could ask Mr Gilani, does Pakistan still feel slighted by Mr Cameron’s remarks last year that Pakistan looks both ways on terrorism? And Mr Cameron, £650 million, people at home are already saying this is an awful lot of money, it could build a lot of schools in Britain or is it a very expensive apology? And on a domestic question I wonder if I could ask you on the day that your government is promoting social mobility, should Oliver Letwin apologise for saying that he doesn’t want to see more people from Sheffield booking cheap holidays? Thank you.
Shall I take the first bit of that question? First of all, look, we made the decision as a coalition government, something we both promised in our manifestos, to increase our overseas aid budget to be 0.7% of our gross national income. That is a decision that we took and I believe it’s a decision that’s right. I think it’s right for Britain, even in difficult circumstances, to support the poorest people in the poorest countries in our world. I believe that it’s also in our interest to help with education, with maternal health, with lifting people out of poverty. And also I think that we should consider whether it’s in our interests to help a country like Pakistan. And I would struggle to find an example of a country where it is more in our interests as Britons to see progress and success than Pakistan.
If Pakistan is a success we’ll have a good friend to trade and invest and deal with in the future, but if we fail we’ll have all the problems of migration, of extremism, problems that we don’t want to see. So it’s in our interests that Pakistan succeeds and by putting money directly into education, helping to educate four million children is an investment for Britain to make sure that Pakistan - do our bit to help Pakistan to be a success, a trading success, an economic success, a skills success and a country that we can work with in the future. So I think it is the right decision, it’s over four years that this money is going to be spent and, as I say, I think it’s hard to think of a better example, education, in a more appropriate country, Pakistan, for us to recognise that our aid budget can do good in other parts of the world, but can also do good for Britain.
On cheap flights and Oliver Letwin, I normally find if you look at the full quotation of what Oliver Letwin has said, it is often different to what was reported in the newspapers, and I haven’t looked at the full quotation, but I expect when I do I’ll probably find that I’m right. Prime Minister, over to you.
Prime Minister Gilani:
Thank you very much for this, giving priority to education. Despite constraints in your own country, you are allocating an amount to Pakistan, we appreciate it.
I think the root cause of terrorism and extremism is illiteracy and therefore we are giving a lot of importance to education, and especially the education in FATA and in South of Punjab and in the remote areas. Therefore, these areas are extremely important so that there should be more education given to these areas. And even the UK is a very preferred destination for Pakistani students; there are about 30,000 students already studying in the UK and we have discussed in detail with the Prime Minister that we have to encourage more of our students going for scholarships.
Thank you. My question would be for Mr Cameron. Excellency, you have discussed that there should be people-to-people contact, and you want enhanced strategic dialogue and you have already mentioned that the problem is of immigration, and education can solve all these issues. But my question is, when you say that there should be more people-to-people contact but the restrictions on visas is a big problem and every individual who applies for a visa is considered as a terrorist, and then he is being evaluated on that basis and later on if he is found not a terrorist - that is a discrimination against Pakistan, and since you have moved your visa consulate out of Pakistan; and it is also causing problems for the Pakistanis.
Well, first of all there are huge numbers of people who travel from Britain to Pakistan, from Pakistan to Britain and that is a good thing and something that we support. Yes, we have moved our visa processing to a different place but that is just to make sure the visa processing is efficient. In terms of student visas in particular, we have just changed the rules because there was quite a lot of people using student visas who weren’t really students, who were coming to work rather than study, but what we have done in this process is actually make sure that anyone who wants to come to study in a British university and then work for two years in Britain, after studying at that university, anyone who wants to do that with a graduate job can do so. So, I believe what we are doing with immigration policy in Britain is actually making sure we deal with the abuse of immigration, and there has been a lot of abuse of immigration, but making sure we are an open country for people to come to, to come and work and study if they abide by the rules that we set. And I think it is right to have rules, because if you don’t have rules you won’t have fairness.
Mr Cameron first, you talk about the need for greater security cooperation. How can you be confident that every element of Pakistan’s security services has stopped supporting the Taliban? And Prime Minister Gilani, there’s to be a new centre of excellence, sharing expertise about how roadside bombs are tackled. Can you guarantee that no information that Britain gives to Pakistan will be leaked across the border to the Taliban, by elements of your security services?
Prime Minister Gilani:
Mr Prime Minister, that’s a question which he has asked specifically about the credible information shared with your intelligence agencies. I want to assure, through you, the media that Pakistan has a resolve, and a commitment to fight against extremism and terrorism. And we have the ability, and we have the resolve and we are fighting. And we have paid a very heavy price for that; more than 30,000 people, they have been martyred, and equal numbers they have been disabled and even the political leadership they have been targeted and the civil society. There have been bomb blasts in the schools, in the girls’ schools, in the hospitals, on the malls and even at the police stations and even the audiences we are talking about like the ISI headquarters, they had been targeted. Therefore we are ready to share and we are ready to even get information from anywhere in the world if they have any credible or actionable information, they can pass onto Pakistan and we are ready to help them. But one thing I’ll tell you, combine NATO forces together, their sacrifices are much less in number than Pakistan alone.
Yes, thank you. What I would say is, what you see in Pakistan today is a huge fight taking place by the government against terrorism, and as Prime Minister Gilani has said, Pakistan has lost many, many people in that fight, not least in South Waziristan. And what we have agreed today is to work as closely together as possible in combating terrorism. Indeed we have a shared interest in combating that terrorism, whether it is fighting the terrorism here in Pakistan which I just referred to, whether it is trying to work together to stop people from Pakistan or from Afghanistan who commit terrorist acts overseas, or whether indeed it is making sure, as we just discussed over lunch, the shared interest we have in a stable, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan. Those are our shared interests and we’re determined to pursue them.
My question is directed to the visiting Prime Minister. Mr Prime Minister, it is encouraging to hear from you that you categorise the relationship with Pakistan as unbreakable. And you have termed Pakistan as a front line, straight against terrorism. But Mr Prime Minister, you’ll appreciate the fact that the signalling, the message we are getting from the West and especially from your great country, is not that encouraging. Especially, in the background of the fact that you made an ‘obnoxious’ statement in Bangalore, when you termed Pakistan as a part of the problem. I wish to know that, do you think that Pakistan is a part of the problem, or part of the solution? And second, slightly lighter question, that we are hearing about a minister of your Cabinet, Ms Sayeeda Warsi, that she is on her way out and we heard this news with a fair amount of reaction. Would you like to confirm, otherwise? And question to Mr Prime Minister of Pakistan, that are you satisfied with your talks with the visiting Prime Minister on the question of Pakistan’s role on terrorism and Pakistan’s understanding with the West on the question of Afghanistan? Thank you, sirs.
Thank you, thank you very much. In terms of the unbreakable relationship, I call it unbreakable because of the very close ties we have, the ties of history and language and culture, ties of a million people of Pakistan origin living in Britain and of all the shared interests we have; we’ve been discussing today whether education, or trade, or investment or indeed in fighting terrorism. And I don’t accept that the signal coming from the West or from Britain is unhelpful, we want to work with our friends in Pakistan to fight terrorism, as I’ve said, whether that is the terrorism that you yourselves are fighting right here in Pakistan, and the huge damage that has done. Whether it is working with us for a stable Afghanistan or indeed stopping the terrorism that has come out of this region and has done harm elsewhere. In terms of the unbreakability of our relationship, I think Sayeeda Warsi is a great demonstration of that; someone whose father came to Britain just a generation ago and in one generation her family has gone from someone who is working in the mill town, in the North of England, to she is sitting in the Cabinet and doing an extremely fine job at the same time, if I might say so, and it’s great to have her with me here in Pakistan today. Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Gilani:
Yes, about the talks I want to apprise the media that we had very good talks with the Prime Minister. We had discussions on education, on health, on investments, on trade and on security, but mostly on the priorities on education that we had a very good talks with each other, and we have discussed about enhanced strategic partnership, and we want to improve our relationship and certainly I think our talks were extremely successful.
A couple of days back there were reports in the Pakistani press that the United Kingdom has refused to hand over former President General Musharraf to Pakistan, who is wanted in Pakistan in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Although Musharraf is not a British citizen, he is on a visa living in London, when a Pakistani court is looking for him, why is Britain refusing to hand over Musharraf to Pakistan? Thank you.
Okay, do you want me to take that? President Musharraf does spend a lot of his time in London. We don’t have an extradition treaty between Britain and Pakistan, and so obviously we’ll look at any warrant that is produced, but there would have to be a formal application in the proper way in order for this to proceed.
The particular dialogue you’re talking about - well, you have talked in very broad terms which is understandable given the sensitivity of the situation, but I would like to know that the British military is in Afghanistan and there must be some specific concerns concerning Afghanistan you would have shared with Pakistan and there’s also a strategic means here also, India which comes into equation and the Pakistan/India equation. So what concerns have you raised regarding India/Pakistan relations in Afghanistan with your counterparts?
Well, obviously we had a very full discussion; in our dialogue we started talking about education, and healthcare, and trade, and investment; then we moved to talking about national security issues and a range of security concerns, we obviously spent a lot of time talking about Afghanistan, where we do share a common interest; which is, we both have an interest in a peaceful, stable, democratic Afghanistan and we were discussing the best ways of making sure that that rapidly comes about, and we have a shared interest in doing that. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you for coming to the press conference.