Daily View: Pakistan and the UK
Commentators discuss the relationship between Pakistan and the UK before the president of Pakistan's visit to the UK on Tuesday.
In the Times William Rees-Mogg calls [subscription required] David Cameron's words on Pakistan a "blast of honesty":
"It is no good Pakistan taking offence at the Prime Minister pointing to what he and the ISI know to be the truth.
"What Mr Cameron said was not an indiscretion or a 'gaffe'. It was part of a policy of telling the truth, as a calculated way of bringing awkward issues closer to the point of decision. Many people seem to believe that diplomats, including prime ministers, should in all circumstances avoid giving offence to other nations, even when there is an open sore in existing relations. Mr Cameron has taken the opposite line."
Hugo Rifkind argues in the Wall Street Journal that "this wasn't 'plain speaking'. It was very complex, loaded, meaningful speaking":
"Mr Cameron was in Bangalore, India by now, and talking about Pakistan. He suggested that Pakistan 'looks both ways' when it comes to the global struggle between democracy and Islamism, which it does, and suggested that this was something Britain has issues with, which it should. The sense of gaffe came not because what he said was wrong, but because he seemed to be saying it in a manner that presumed that, because he was speaking in India, Pakistan just wouldn't notice. As though Pakistan didn't have a TV...
"It's a decent rule of thumb in politics that you can always afford to annoy the people who need you the most. British Conservatives need David Cameron, so he annoyed them to agree with America. Israel needs British support, so he annoyed them to agree with Turkey. Pakistan needs Britain in Afghanistan, so he annoyed them to agree with India."
Con Coughlin says in the Telegraph that David Cameron risks alienating the UK's greatest ally in the war in Afghanistan:
"No doubt Mr Cameron and his advisors think that this policy will pay dividends because, at the very least, it is generating lots of headlines and helping to raise Mr Cameron's international profile. But at what price? This country's overwhelming national security issue to resolve the Afghan conflict, and I fail to see how our prospects in the war will be improved by causing serious offence to one of our major allies in the war."
In contrast Peter Preston says in the Guardian that Pakistan is the problem, not the solution:
"[T]he problem here doesn't lie in Kabul or the Hindu Kush. Afghanistan is a sideshow. Pakistan, a nuclear state with a population seven times bigger than its troublesome neighbour, is the main event.
"Where (with help from the CIA) were the original Taliban recruited, trained? Where are the masters of 9/11 still hiding? Where did virtually every bomb plotter of the last nine years do his ignition course? Which country is still fighting a desperate battle to keep its own fundamentalists at bay? Which country has seen more of its troops die in the 'war against terror' than Nato? And its citizens slaughtered in huge bomb blasts? Which country, if it became a failed state, would be the biggest disaster of the lot? Pakistan ticks every box."
Jawed Naqvi wonders in Pakistani newspaper Dawn why the there has been such outrage, arguing Mr Cameron didn't say anything new about Pakistan:
"Mr Cameron cannot and should not be faulted for being merely what he is - an exceedingly ambitious Conservative politician. And though he is seeking to cast himself in the mould of Mrs Thatcher he neither has a Ronald Regan to boost his morale nor the ruse of a Cold War to mask the ambitions of his party's militarist worldview. The trouble lies elsewhere, and it really lies with the obsequious Indians and fawning Pakistanis who act hurt when they are rapped on the knuckles by those they seek to play sherpas to."
The Independent editorial urges David Cameron to repeat his thoughts about the "ambivalent relationship of certain forces in Pakistan towards the Taliban in Afghanistan":
"This week, Mr Cameron must make use of his meeting with Asif Ali Zardari to deliver a more nuanced version of those off-the-cuff words. Given the strength of the outcry in Pakistan over his remarks in Bangalore, and the numerous calls on the President to cancel the visit, he must express appreciation for Mr Zardari's decision to come at all. He must reassure his guest that his strictures were reserved for rogue elements within the Pakistan establishment, especially in the military and the intelligence service, the ISI, not for the civilian government that Mr Zardari represents and which the Islamist extremists detest and desire to overthrow."
Links in full
• William Rees-Mogg | Times | A blast of honesty in our new foreign policy
• Hugo Rifkind | Wall Street Journal | David Cameron's 'Gaffes'
• Peter Preston | Guardian | Islamabad's storm clouds
• Jawed Naqvi | Dawn | Mistaking David Cameron for Kaiser Wilhelm?
• Independent | Cameron must clear the air with our ally