David Cameron on Wednesday risked opening a diplomatic rift with Pakistan after accusing Islamabad of “looking both ways” on exporting terrorism, soon after paving the way to closer nuclear and military ties with India.
The UK prime minister used his first public appearance in Bangalore to warn Pakistan to stop “promoting terror” or face isolation in the international community.
Mr Cameron’s remarks are his strongest rebuke of Islamabad’s suspected links with extremist groups and contrast with his depiction of India as a “responsible global power”. Downing Street insisted Mr Cameron was referring to “Pakistan the country, not the government”.
After making it clear he had discussed the issue with the White House, Mr Cameron said: “We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country [Pakistan] is allowed to look both ways and is able . . . to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.
“It is not right to have any relationship with groups that are promoting terror. Democratic states that want to be part of the developed world cannot do that. The message to Pakistan from the US and the UK is very clear on that point.”
The comments come only days after the publication of classified US files on WikiLeaks, a website that publishes leaked documents, detailing allegations that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, the country’s spy agency, had armed and trained the Taliban for years. The documents showed Pakistan had not heeded international warnings to step back from its support of militant groups.
Pakistan responded by saying that Mr Cameron was falling prey to Indian propaganda against a neighbour with whom it had fought three wars in the past 63 years, and appealed for more help from the west to fight militancy.
“To accuse Pakistan as part of the problem is simply geared towards strengthening those that we should collectively oppose who promote militancy,” said Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s high commissioner to the UK.
“India has been making an effort to malign Pakistan. It is high time that India also acknowledges the many problems that it has at home, the many insurgencies within India that need to be tackled, rather than externalizing the source of the problem.”
Mr Cameron later insisted that Britain was “working very closely” with Pakistan in a valuable security relationship. But he said it was “well documented” that Pakistan had in the past used its links with terror groups to pursue its foreign policy. “That’s unacceptable,” he told the BBC.
The prime minister’s warning to Pakistan came as he extended civil nuclear co-operation with India. Mr Cameron has also pledged to “broaden [the UK’s] counter-terrorism partnership” with India, including in areas of terrorism financing.
The British delegation also signed a deal worth about £700m to sell 57 Hawk Jets to India and promote contracts for helicopters and aircraft carrier designs.
Additional reporting by James Lamont in Mumbai and Amy Kazmin in New Delhi
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