Cameron Seeks To Renew Links With Pakistan

David Cameron will call on Tuesday for a "fresh start" in Anglo-Pakistan relations on a visit to Islamabad aimed at patching up differences with one of Britain's most important security allies. During a one-day trip to a nation critical of UK counter-terrorism efforts and the war in Afghanistan, the prime minister will deliver a conciliatory speech that attempts to "clear up misunderstandings of the past" and strengthen an "unbreakable partnership".

British Prime Minister David Cameron, with Pakistani Federal Minister Raza Rabbani, arrives in Rawalpindi on Tuesday

David Cameron will call on Tuesday for a "fresh start" in Anglo-Pakistan relations on a visit to Islamabad aimed at patching up differences with one of Britain's most important security allies.

During a one-day trip to a nation critical of UK counter-terrorism efforts and the war in Afghanistan, the prime minister will deliver a conciliatory speech that attempts to "clear up misunderstandings of the past" and strengthen an "unbreakable partnership".

Relations with Islamabad have gone through a rocky period after Cameron last year accused Pakistan of "looking both ways" on exporting terrorism while on a tour of India, causing a diplomatic incident early in his premiership.

He will acknowledge there are "challenges that our friendship should overcome". But he will argue that disputes over India, security in Afghanistan and questions of governance can be overcome "if we're clear that we need each other to succeed".

"Let's make this the start of a new era in the relations between our countries, our governments, our peoples," he will tell an audience of students. "Let's clear up the misunderstandings of the past, work through the tensions of the present and look together to the opportunities of the future."

Cameron will arrive in a country facing multiple crises. Pakistan's economy is relying on International Monetary Fund loans, large swaths of the country are still recovering from flooding, its army is struggling to quell an internal insurgency, and the ruling party is setting records for unpopularity.

British officials stress that the visit will cover more than security and that Cameron will raise trade and education in meetings with Yusuf Raza Gilani, prime minister, and Asif Ali Zardari, president.

However, Cameron will be accompanied by General Sir David Richards, chief of de fence staff, and Sir John Sawers, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service -- an entourage that underlines the strategic importance of Pakistan.

Half the most serious terrorist plots against Britain have links with Pakistan. The country provides the main supply route for UK troops to Afghanistan and will play a critical part in reaching a political deal to pull out from Afghanistan.

Yet in spite of the priority placed on relations by successive British prime ministers, the partnership has often been marked by unfulfilled promises, suspicion and discord.

Cameron will attempt to overcome past differences through an "enhanced security dialogue." While Pakistan has largely cooperated in the fight against al Qaeda, British officials privately admit it has been far less forthcoming on intelligence or support regarding the Taliban and other militant groups. Support on intelligence relating to terrorist plots targeting Britain has also been patchy.

"Britain has been concerned for some years over militant networks on its soil drawing upon people from a Pakistani origin who are connected to militant groups in Pakistan," said one senior Pakistan foreign ministry official in Islamabad. "We have constantly reminded [the UK] to tackle its terrorism problems within the UK's domestic context."

Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan's former high commissioner to the UK, said the UK was emulating the United States in "moving away from a transactional relationship to one that recognizes the intrinsic importance of Pakistan."

"Whether this phrase and a structured dialogue to match helps to achieve this is yet to be seen," she added.

Pakistan, in turn, is likely to raise its concerns over Britain's acceptance of dissidents, notably hardcore nationalists from the troubled Baluchistan province who are exiled in the UK.

"It takes two to tango. Britain cannot expect Pakistan's one-sided co-operation without any reciprocity," said a Pakistani intelligence official.

CNN