ISLAMABAD: Pakistan considers the United Kingdom a close friend and a genuine development partner, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said here on Thursday.
According to an official press release, the prime minister stated this in a meeting with UK Senior Foreign Office Minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who called on him.
Sharif lauded the efforts of Baroness Warsi for Muslim causes and her initiatives of strengthening the link of Pakistani diaspora in the UK. Highlighting the importance of Pakistan-UK relations, he said the visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron as the first head of government after the general elections 2013 is a testimony to the special relationship and there exists a coordinated approach to various bilateral, regional and international issues.
The release said Baroness Warsi apprised Prime Minister Sharif regarding progress made on Pakistan-UK Enhanced Strategic Dialogue, Trade Investment Roadmap and support provided by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for various projects in Pakistan.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi paid a courtesy call on Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Office said in a press release. In the meeting, the two sides discussed bilateral issues of mutual interest, especially the Pakistan-UK Trade and Investment Roadmap launched in February 2012. They agreed on taking effective steps towards realization of targets, especially raising the bilateral trade to £3 billion by 2015.
Sartaj Aziz stated that Pakistan attached high importance to its relations with the United Kingdom, which is also its second largest trading partner in Europe.
Baroness Warsi reiterated her government’s policy of maintaining and strengthening the bilateral relations and expressed support to Pakistan’s quest for inclusion in the GSP Plus scheme in the European Union.
Aziz and Baroness Warsi also exchanged views on important international and regional issues, including Pakistan-India relations and the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, a high-level UK delegation led by Senior Minister for State at the Foreign and Common Wealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities Baroness Sayeeda Warsi also called on Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar at his office. The businessmen and investors from the UK were also part of the delegation.
Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister of State for Commerce and Privatization Engineer Khurram Dastagir and secretaries of several divisions were present on the occasion.
Baroness Warsi held intensive discussion with the finance minister and his team to explore avenues of increasing the bilateral trade between the two countries, which presently stands at £2.2-3 billion. She termed the discussions very positive and expressed the hope that bilateral economic relations would move forward.
The business delegation said they were encouraged by the policies pursued by the government and were keen to invest in the energy sector, assist in human skill development, education and professional training.
Dar briefed Baroness Warsi on the economic situation inherited by the government and measures taken by the government to address the macroeconomic imbalances and stabilize the economy. He appreciated the support extended by the UK in helping Pakistan obtain GSP status from EU and IMF program.
Earlier, Baroness Warsi arrived in Pakistan on Thursday morning for her second visit in three months. According to a press release issued by the British High Commission, the UK minister is accompanied by a delegation of British businesses from across the energy, education and retail sectors.
During her visit to Pakistan, Baroness Warsi and the trade delegation will meet with senior ministers and other officials to take forward discussions held under a new target of increasing bilateral trade to £3 billion by 2015, pledged during Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Pakistan in June this year.
Recognizing the importance of boosting economic and trade ties between the UK and Pakistan as part of this dialogue, Baroness Warsi will also hold meetings with the Pakistani business community.
According to another press release issued by the British High Commission, UK Senior Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi has arrived in Pakistan for her second visit in three months, accompanied by a trade mission of leading UK businesses. During the visit Baroness Warsi called on the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Imran Khan, Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Discussions throughout the day focused on trade and the economy and building partnerships between Pakistan and the UK in areas such as energy, security, education and retail.
During her meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Baroness Warsi said: “The UK and Pakistan already have so many strong connections that bind our people together. During this visit I am especially keen to see the economic ties between our countries strengthened. Britain and Pakistan share common interests and common threats. It is in our mutual interests to work together on a broad range of issues, from education and culture to economic reform, development and security. A strong, prosperous and democratic Pakistan is vital for the security of the country and the region. We are looking forward to further strengthening the unbreakable partnership between our two countries.”
In a separate meeting with Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Baroness Warsi said: “The UK is investing in Pakistan’s future. This visit is a sign of the UK’s commitment to the longstanding partnership between our two countries. Our visit reflects the UK’s commitment to increase the volume of trade with Pakistan to £3 billion by 2015. Increasing trade will help create jobs and boost employment for people across Pakistan and in the UK, making our countries more prosperous and secure.”
Baroness Warsi also met Zahid Hamid, Pakistan Minister for Privatization and Investment and Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs to discuss Pakistan-UK joint cooperation in trade and regional stability. She hosted a reception for the Members of Pakistan Parliament.