ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Sunday assured visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron of promoting efforts to reach a peace deal in Afghanistan before the withdrawal of NATO forces.
“We hope that the UK will continue these efforts to seek sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Sharif told reporters after talks with Cameron.
He supported Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s position that any peace process should be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led.
“In our meeting today, we discussed the entire spectrum of our bilateral relations. I informed Prime Minister Cameron on my government’s priorities and the objectives we have set for ourselves to improve the lives of ordinary Pakistanis,” Sharif said about the meeting.
“In this context, I apprised Prime Minister Cameron about the austerity measures my government is undertaking to ensure fiscal discipline and address the challenge of energy shortages with a view to implementing my government’s economic development agenda,” he said. “I have assured Prime Minister Cameron of our firm resolve to promote the shared objective of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, to which the three million afghan refugees currently living in Pakistan can return with honor and dignity.”
Cameron welcomed Sharif’s remarks about the “vital importance of the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan”.
“I profoundly believe that a stable, prosperous, peaceful, democratic Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest, and I know that you and President Karzai will work together towards those ends,” Cameron said.
Cameron is on his second visit to Pakistan and is the first foreign head of government to visit Islamabad since Nawaz Sharif assumed charge as prime minister of the country in June after winning May 11 elections.
Relations between Kabul and Islamabad are traditionally mired in distrust. The apparent headway made at a summit hosted by Cameron in February has since unraveled in a series of public rows. The search for a peace deal is an urgent priority as 100,000 us-led NATO combat troops prepare to withdraw next year and Afghan forces take on the fight against insurgents that has lasted more than a decade.
Prime Minister Sharif said that Pakistan considers the United Kingdom as its close friend and genuine development partner and expressed the hope that like in the past, it would continue advocating Pakistan’s cause in the European Union (EU) market.
“The United Kingdom has a strong voice in the EU. We are especially grateful to Prime Minister Cameron for his personal efforts to secure trade concessions for Pakistan in the EU,” he said while addressing a joint press conference with Prime Minister Cameron.
Following is complete text of the joint statement released by the British High Commission:
“Prime Ministers Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and David Cameron today reiterated their confidence in the future of Pakistan and UK relations, committing to intensive cooperation as equals towards greater progress and prosperity. They agreed to find new ways to make the close and cooperative friendship beneficial for the people in both countries.
“As the first foreign Head of Government to visit Pakistan since the new government took office, Prime Minister Cameron expressed his confidence in the future of Pakistan, congratulating its people and institutions on the steps they have taken towards a strong, stable democracy.
“Building on the existing warm friendship and confidence in Pakistan’s economic future, the Prime Ministers focused on trade, pledging a new target of increasing bilateral trade to £3 billion by 2015, up from the previous commitment of £2.5 billion.
“Over 100 British companies are operating successfully in Pakistan. This includes Mott MacDonald in infrastructure development; Unilever in consumer goods; and GlaxoSmithKline in pharmaceuticals. A major British company Orion Energy has concluded a joint venture partnership with Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) to utilize Pakistan’s natural gas reserves to generate electricity. The second annual trade conference will be hosted this autumn in London to encourage more companies to follow their success. Both sides will encourage strong participation from the energy sector. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif pledged his government’s full support to creating the right environment to attract further investment.
“Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif informed Prime Minister Cameron about his ambitious plans to enhance growth, create jobs and reduce poverty to create a brighter future for the people of Pakistan. There is now an opportunity to take tough decisions on solving the energy crisis, increasing trade and investment. The UK will continue to play its leading role in the international community to support Pakistan to enhance economic growth, including through increased market access to the European Union. Under the framework of the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue the two governments will continue their regular dialogue on economic reform.
“Looking to the next generation, the UK and Pakistan will continue to work together to help Pakistan’s people fulfill their potential. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif reiterated his commitment to increase the number of children in school and quality of education in Pakistan, and welcomed a continuing, strong partnership with the UK to transform education in Pakistan. Prime Minister Cameron welcomed empowerment for the poorest through Pakistan’s increased funding for the income support program and also recommitted ongoing UK assistance for the program.
“The prime ministers acknowledged the positive contribution of the British and Pakistani communities living in each other’s countries towards the development and prosperity of both countries. Prime Minister Cameron announced that the British Council would be opening a library in Lahore and a cultural space in Karachi. The UK and Pakistan are committed to fully exploiting the enormous potential in their relationship through strengthening practical cooperation in ways that are mutually beneficial. The ties that join the UK and Pakistan in an unbreakable partnership are as strong as ever.
“Prime Minister Cameron paid tribute to the people of Pakistan who had sacrificed so much and still clearly rejected the terrorist violence and intimidation. The UK will work in partnership with Pakistan providing expertise in support of Pakistan’s developing strategy on counter terrorism. The UK will provide more equipment to tackle the scourge of improvised explosive devices and support Pakistan in improving the security of its infrastructure, including sharing the UK’s expertise in safeguarding sporting events.
“Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif apprised Prime Minister Cameron about the ongoing Pakistan-India Peace process. They underscored the importance of peace, stability and security in Afghanistan and reaffirmed their support for an Afghan-led and Afghan- owned reconciliation process.
“Intensive, practical cooperation will capitalize on the growing joint opportunities on trade, investment, energy, and in the cultural spheres. In the coming months, the Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and Secretary of State William Hague will discuss specific measures through the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue which underscores the unbreakable partnership between Pakistan and the UK. There will be regular in-depth dialogue between Ministers, including the UK Secretary for International Development Justine Greening on UK development cooperation, and Home Secretary Theresa May who will intensify mutually beneficial cooperation. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif accepted an invitation to visit the UK to carry forward the process of further enhancing cooperation between the two countries.”