BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron is mired in a diplomatic row over comments made in India about the “export of terror” from Pakistan.
Pakistan’s ambassador to Britain accused Mr Cameron of “damaging the prospects of regional peace” with his remarks yesterday in the southern Indian IT hub of Bangalore.
Asked about regional security issues, Mr Cameron responded with a warning to India’s arch-rival against becoming a haven for militant groups.
“We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country (Pakistan) is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world,” he said.
The comments were gleefully splashed on the front page of every major newspaper in India, which has long accused Pakistan of harbouring and abetting extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba – blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
His remarks also came days after the leak of secret US military documents that detailed links between Pakistan’s intelligence services and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
“We should be very, very clear with Pakistan that we want to see a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan,” Mr Cameron said.
“It should be a relationship based on a very clear message: that it is not right to have any relationship with groups that are promoting terror.”
Back in London, Pakistani High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan voiced his government’s deep disappointment, saying Mr Cameron had chosen to ignore Pakistan’s “enormous role” in the war on terror.
“He seems to be more reliant on information based on intelligence leaks, despite it lacking credibility or corroborating proof,” said Mr Hasan, writing to The Guardian newspaper.
“A bilateral visit aimed at attracting business could have been conducted without damaging the prospects of regional peace,” he added.
There was no immediate comment from the government in Islamabad.
The issue of South Asian regional security, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, was sure to be raised again when Mr Cameron held talks today with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister SM Krishna.
But Mr Cameron will be keen to keep his two-day visit focused on its main purpose: Britain’s drive to take bilateral trade and economic ties with the former jewel in its colonial crown to a new level.