An interesting piece in the Pakistan Observer today on an interview with the British Deputy High Commissioner on the increasing bilateral trade links between the two countries:
British Deputy High Commissioner, Alison Blake says relations between her country and Pakistan have always been cordial and continued to grow.
On bilateral reade she said: UK & Pakistan have an amibitious target to boost bilateral trade in goods and services from the 2010 level of £2.0 billion to at least £2.5 billion by 2015. The UK is the top destination in Europe for exports from Pakistan. Pakistan’s exports to the UK rose by 17% from Jan to Oct 2011, with particularly strong growth in textiles. UK is the largest European investor in Pakistan. UK is Pakistan’s strongest advocate for market access to the EU. UK is the 3rd largest overseas investor in Pakistan with 13.46% market share (FY 2009-10)
This is exactly what Britain should be focusing a lot of its diplomatic and business efforts upon: the developing world. Pakistan is an obvious target because of the large ex-pat communities within both countries. Coupled with these established social, business and trade relationships, the UK should be offering to help in advising the Pakistani government in its attempts to obtain a full democratic system, out of the reach of the powerful Pakistani military who have ruled the country on-and-off since independence from Britain and the subsequent partition of India.
As recently as January of this year, there have been huge arguments between the civilian government and military resulting in a warning to PM Gilani from the military over criticisms from Gilani of military interference in the judiciary and in the running of the country came about following an anonymous memo was received by Admiral Mike Mullan back in May 2011 detailing the possibility of a coup attempt by the Pakistani military/ Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
This instability within Pakistan is not good for the Pakistani government and population or for the UK. There is a well-documented connection, which has cost many within Pakistan reporting this their lives, between militant groups and the Pakistani military, in particular links with ISI, which in turn has provided a permissive environment for the training of terrorists for attacks in the West, including the UK, and the fostering of the Taliban for attacks within Afghanistan. PM Cameron on a visit to the country in July 2010 warned that Pakistan could no longer afford to “look both ways” regarding the terrorist threat emanating from regions within the country . In a follow-up visit in April 2011 the PM pledged £650 million in assistance for Pakistani education. These frequent visits from the British PM coupled with strong, highly politicised speeches and investment of significant amounts of the UK aid budget, underscore how highly the UK places Pakistan on its list of foreign policy priorities. Just today Britain pledged, through the Department for International Development (DfID), to get more than 800,000 girls and boys to schools and build over 2,000 new classrooms by 2015. This is what the UK should be looking to achieve through its foreign policy: supporting former colonies on their path to economic, social and political development.
As well as possibly unhelpful and intrusive warnings and useful aid for key sectors of the country, the Pakistani government requires long term political and economic backing from its partners in the West, such as the UK, in order to maintain stability within the country and to foster it toward greater openness and transparency within its democratic system. This will not only improve trade relations for both the UK and Pakistan but also help Pakistan to deal with its huge terrorism problem (without the continuing use of US drones) within its own borders which is estimated to be the cause of over 40,000 combined civilian/security force personal and insurgent/terrorist deaths since 2003, and that of the training and co-ordination of terrorist attacks upon Western targets.
As well as direct aid, this help could include the fostering of better relations with its arch-rival in the region, India, advice in reform of its judicial system, and discreet advice to the US to limit their drone attacks on the country’s border regions to an absolute minimum. The stage is set for a positive UK contribution to the development of Pakistan into a developed nation; it is down to the Cameron and successor administrations to develop a committed and sensible strategy based upon shared interests.
By Jonathan Woodrow Martin