David Cameron mounts charm offensive amid fallout with Pakistan
Pakistani President Zardari considered canceling his visit to Britain later this week after UK Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that Pakistan was 'promoting the export of terror.' Poor judgment or plain speaking?
Britain’s top diplomat in Islamabad was summoned Monday for a dressing down by the foreign minister of Pakistan as the fallout continued from suggestions last week by Prime Minister David Cameron that Pakistan was engaged in the “export” of terrorism.Skip to next paragraph
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Back in the United Kingdom, the government’s finest silverware was being polished ahead a visit later this week by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, as Mr. Cameron prepared to mount a charm offensive to defuse the first major diplomatic row of his three-month-old premiership.
Cameron chose a visit last week to India, a foreign policy priority of the UK and a nuclear rival of Pakistan, to suggest that elements in his host's northern neighbor were "looking both ways" on Islamist violence and "promoting the export of terror" – remarks that were taken to refer to alleged support for the Taliban by Pakistan’s secretive ISI intelligence service. His remarks came after the online whistleblower WikiLeaks released more than 91,000 secret documents that appeared to show the ISI's continued ties with the Taliban and other militant groups.
Cameron's comments, which threw Mr. Zardardi’s UK visit into doubt, have led to criticism of the new British prime minister for dangerously poor judgment as well as plaudits for his making good on promises by his aides that he would pursue a new “plain-speaking” diplomacy.
Others wonder if last week’s remarks stemmed from Britain working in concert with the United States, which has been trying to improve its relations with Islamabad of late, with American officials reiterating in recent days that they recognize Pakistan’s effort in the war in Afghanistan.
“At the same time, we know that US officials are extremely concerned about Pakistan’s so-called ‘double game’ in Afghanistan, and so it is just possible that Mr. Cameron has decided to play the bad cop to Mr. Obama’s good cop by saying it as it is,” says Farzana Shaikh, an authority on Pakistan and associate fellow at London’s Chatham House think tank.