KARACHI, April 27: Having relations with any country is good if they have potential for positive growth, said British High Commissioner Adam Thomson while speaking at a gathering at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs held on Thursday to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s ascendancy to the throne.
“Britain and Pakistan’s relations have more length, breadth and depth than any other country. It’s not just government to government; the people to people ties are intense, too.
Britain has Pakistan’s largest diaspora. As for relations between the two governments, we have relations to counter terrorism, promote trade, education, etc. And we need to go from these excellent relations to relations that are better yet,” said the high commissioner.
“In Britain, we need to know that Pakistan is not about terrorism but about people like Haider Ali,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s world record holding long jumper in the Paralympics, who is being invited to London this year to try and break his own record.
“And in Pakistan you need to know that Britain, too, is not all about Dickens,” he said. “We need to build more trust between the two nations with each country looking after the wellbeing of the other partner. So as Britain wins medals in this year’s London Olympics, we will also be cheering for Pakistan during their competitions.”
Responding to an observation from a man in the audience about Pakistan having inherited roots from the British system but getting lost somewhere on the way, Mr Thomson said: “The divergences between Britain and Pakistan are few and more superficial than fundamental, an area that introduces a challenge for mutual understanding.”
Answering a question about Pakistani students being sent back on charges of terrorism, threatening to hurt relations between the two countries and what can be done about it, the HC said: “There are currently more than 10,000 Pakistani students studying in the UK in a year. Not all have been returned on suspicions or charges of terrorism.
“Still, we will have to look into the students not getting into bogus colleges so that only the genuine and deserving candidates reach Britain. We are also working on setting up campuses in Pakistan for the students to get their degrees here,” he explained.
On being asked to do more on their part for stabilising Pakistan’s economy, the high commissioner said that on his part he had been explaining to Britain how badly Pakistan has suffered due to its geo-political position. “We need to understand modern Pakistan by acknowledging what has happened to Pakistan. But Pakistan made its own choices at the end of the Cold War, and it is suffering the consequences. So you will have to fix your own problems, and we will assist you in any way that we can in this,” he said. “We can assist, not guide, mind you. But if you want my personal view, on what is holding Pakistan back, I don’t see how a country where only 50 per cent of the children go to school can survive in this world economy. Your growing population is another barrier in your economic growth,” he said.
Asked about his view on the blocking of Nato supplies to Afghanistan, he said: “We as part of the international community also want what Pakistan wants — a peaceful solution to Afghanistan after more than 30 years of civil war. Pakistan’s action seems logical as it also serves the purpose of making your country look like it can stand on its own feet.”