UK PM praises 'high point' in Pakistani relations
PM praises 'high point' in Pakistani relations
19 November 2006
Tony Blair has praised the "tremendous co-operation" of Pakistan in the "global struggle" against Islamic extremism.
Speaking in Islamabad following talks with President Pervez Musharraf, the Prime Minister said Pakistan has the "same strategic interests as we all do".
He described the talks as 'immensely constructive' and added that relations with Pakistan were at their highest point for many years.
Mr Blair underlined the global nature of the threat from terror:
"All of us are facing the same threat. All of us are facing a threat from extremism. To fail on this would be to be defeated and we mustn't be defeated."
Press Conference with the Pakistani President19 November 2006
Tony Blair has praised the "tremendous co-operation" of Pakistan in the "global struggle" against Islamic extremism, following talks with President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad. He added that relations with Pakistan were at their highest point for many years.
Ladies and Gentlemen it has been my very unique privilege to receive Prime Minister Tony Blair in Pakistan and in this very historic city of Lahore. It was my honour to have received Prince Charles and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall just a few days back and now the Prime Minister. May I say that I have exchanged views with Prime Minister Tony Blair on all issues, on bilateral, regional and international and quite frankly I think there is a total consensus of views, his views and my views, on all issues. On the bilateral side I personally used the opportunity of telling the Prime Minister of Pakistan's needs of sustaining the economy and that the United Kingdom could assist in enhancing trade and investment in Pakistan which would allow us to sustain the economic growth of Pakistan and facilitate in poverty alleviation and unemployment control which happen to be at the root of extremism and terrorism.
On the regional issues we did discuss the situation of extremism and terrorism on our western borders. The situation in Afghanistan vis-à-vis whatever is happening in our tribal agencies and in Baluchistan. I did inform the Prime Minister on all that we are doing here as a strategy to combat terrorism and check extremism.
On our relations with India I did inform the Prime Minister of the development and the way forward and the desire that Prime Minister Mamohan Singh and myself are showing towards the resolution of all disputes which include Siachin (phon.), Tikrit and Kashmir.
There is a consensus of views on all issues and I am very glad that these exchanges between the Prime Minister and myself have led to understanding, enhancement and a stronger strengthening of relations between the United Kingdom and Pakistan.
I would conclude by saying that it has been a unique privilege to receive you Mr Prime Minister here in Pakistan and in Lahore and it has been especially a privilege to discuss things with you in such a harmonious manner and with total understanding. Thank you very much.
Well thank you very much, Mr President, and thank you for welcoming me to this wonderful and historic city of Lahore and to say how honoured I feel that you have granted me the privilege of receiving me here. And it has indeed been an immensely constructive meeting, and the first thing I would like to say is that the relations between Britain and Pakistan are really at their highest point I think than they have been for many, many years. And I think we are seeing a strengthening of the relationship at every level, which I welcome enormously. And today we have got the opportunity in the strategic partnership that we are agreeing to open yet another chapter in the strengthening of that relationship. We are going to be doubling our support in the next three years a significant amount of support and support for the programme of enlightened moderation that President Musharraf has led. And I would like to pay tribute to his courage and his leadership in taking Pakistan on this journey of change and modernisation, but also in so doing symbolising I think the future for Moslem countries the world over and the interesting thing is that in this programme of enlightened moderation, over these past few years I think I am right in saying that the actual income per head of the population of Pakistan has around doubled which is a pretty significant achievement and there are many things now happening in health and in education with links with universities. We have around 15 British universities that are linked, but we want to increase that to 50. The President was telling me about different countries, particularly European countries, which are establishing specific university links here. This is a process of opening up that I think is immensely important.
Now of course at the same time we discussed the crucial regional issues, in particular of course the situation in Afghanistan. We also discussed the work that we are doing together in counter-terrorism which is very important and which again is improving and strengthening all the time and of course we had the opportunity of talking about some of the broader issues in the world, not least the situation in the Middle East and Palestine.
In addition I would like to again pay tribute to the President and his work in the relationship with India today which is allowing all the outstanding issues, including of course Kashmir, to be addressed in a different and better way. So I think there is, for all the tremendous challenges, there is a good reason to be optimistic, not just about the relationship between Britain and Pakistan, but about the future of Pakistan itself. And I think a significant amount of the credit for that goes to you, Mr President.
So thank you very much for welcoming me here and as you said it was a very interesting and constructive discussion and on all the key points I think we were on the same line.
Question and answer sessionQuestion:
This is for the Prime Minister. Sir, do you think NATO has enough forces in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban insurgency? Pakistan is constantly being asked to do more. As you know, Pakistan has lost a lot of soldiers. In the inter-tribal areas we lost 42 more soldiers last week. What more do you think Pakistan can do and do you think that President Karzai is doing enough to win ... support. Also to get peace and order in Afghanistan, don't you think it would be better if the West made some peace with the Taliban culture? Perhaps President Musharraf could also answer that question. Could the West make peace with the Taliban culture. Would that make peace in Afghanistan easier, perhaps?
And if I may ask the President, Sir .... time to think that the war on terrorism which you joined thinking or believing that it would eliminate terrorism in the world is in fact adding to the insecurity and instability in the world. What and where and who do you think went wrong Sir?
That is quite a cocktail of ..
A loaded question.
I would say, incidentally, that this terrorism that we are facing of which one manifestation is what has happened in Afghanistan has been a long time growing and it is going to take a long time to defeat it but the sooner we start fighting the battle to defeat it, the sooner we will achieve victory in it and I don't know what you mean by the culture of the Taliban but the Taliban's attitude towards democracy, to the suppression of women are attitudes and a culture that I cannot believe is what people in Afghanistan want and indeed they showed that they did not want that when they voted in a democratic election specifically to reject it.
I think in terms of what NATO is doing, there is a NATO summit at Riga in 10 days' time, there we will analyse what more we need to do but nobody should be in any doubt at all of our commitment to Afghanistan, to doing what we can to support the government there, but recognising that it is not just about having the security and the force, it is also about the politics, the reconstruction, the development. We need to do both of those things together but we believe that it is of fundamental importance to our own security to make sure that we stick with it in Afghanistan and see the job through and in respect of what is happening here in Pakistan I know there is a tremendous amount of co-operation. Obviously we are always looking for ways to increase that co-operation, but Pakistan has the same strategic interests as we all do which is an Afghanistan that is stable and shares the values of looking outward to the world rather than becoming prey once again to Al-Qaeda and to the Taliban.
Thank you and for my part I reinforce whatever the Prime Minister has said and I totally agree with that. About Pakistan not doing enough, I reject this notion totally. We are doing all that we can because we are against terrorism, we are against extremism and we are against Talibanisation. That should answer this element of Taliban culture that you mentioned which the Prime Minister also mentioned. We are against - Pakistan is against - any kind of Talibanisation which is a backward culture of rejecting and imposing a very obscurantist kind of culture onto our society, so even in Afghanistan I don't think the people of Afghanistan would like Talibanisation as such in Afghanistan and in Pakistan certainly we reject Talibanisation.
Who and what went wrong in terrorism? I don't think I would like to go into the past history of what went wrong and who went wrong. I believe in seeing the present and then trying to resolve disputes, looking at the future and resolving disputes and in this I have always believed, and I have told the Prime Minister also and he agrees totally with that, that the core to resolving disputes lies in the resolution of the Palestinian dispute. That will unhinge whatever is happening in Iraq or Lebanon or even will create effects on Afghanistan, will create effects against international terrorism so therefore we must untie the knot, and then this whole knot of terrorism will be untied to first resolving the Palestinian dispute, that is what I believe, and I know that Prime Minister Tony Blair totally agrees with that.
Mr President, can I ask you why Pakistan has warned that the war against the Taliban might be unwinnable. And can I ask you to go a little further than you have in answering those people that say that one reason it might be unwinnable is because Pakistan has not done enough to deal with the problems of Taliban forces crossing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
And Prime Minister can I ask you how you would answer someone at home who might fear that the war in Afghanistan, like the war in Iraq, would become pretty much a disaster?
Did you say that Pakistan, that I have said that this war against the Taliban is unwinnable? I don't think I have ever said that. I never believe in accepting defeat before an enemy. I have never said that. We must win it, but all that I have said is that it cannot be won through military action alone, so you have to come up with a broader strategy and this strategy must involve a political element and a reconstruction or development element. Now these two seem to be missing from the area which today is under Taliban or militant Taliban actions, and that happens to be the south-eastern region of Afghanistan. So therefore I have never said that it is unwinnable but unless we expand the scope to political and reconstruction yes, then we are only using the military instrument which will not lead to a solution. But other than that when you spoke about Pakistan not doing enough at stopping whatever is happening from this side I would like to put it in correct perspective. The Taliban problem is an Afghan problem. The solution lies in what you do in Afghanistan not what you do in Pakistan. Now Pakistan certainly has to take action here against elements, which are supporting whatever is happening in the south-eastern region of Afghanistan and let me assure you that we are doing much more than our capacities. We have suffered casualties, we have suffered about 600 dead. Now if you think that we are suffering these dead by not doing anything or not doing enough, I am afraid we are not seeing realities. We are doing the maximum, we need to look at realities, keep readjusting strategies, keep finding new solutions to the problem, and that is what we are doing. Maybe we are not achieving 100% results. Yes indeed, I will agree with that. But by saying that we are not doing enough indicates that we don't have intentions, that there is a fault in our intentions or in our desires. That should never be said, and that must never be thought. Our desires and our intentions are very, very clear. We have to fight terrorism and extremism. We have to fight the militant Taliban and defeat them. We are doing everything that we can and whatever strategies or implementation mechanisms we have made we are doing the maximum. We are the only ones who are trying to implement the whole package which means the military, political, administrative and also reconstruction. So therefore we are doing everything. Yes indeed, there are certain failures in certain areas where we keep readjusting in accordance with the environment and I would say that more actions are required on the Afghanistan side, because the war will be won on the Afghan side because the Taliban problem is on the Afghan side and we have to win the battle on the Afghan side.
First of all I think in fairness we should say that the co-operation with Pakistan in dealing with these issues has been transformed over the past few years. There's no doubt about that at all. Now of course everyone always wants more to be done but I think one should just signal that fact right at the outset. But what is interesting to me in coming here and having this discussion with the President is that all of us are facing the same threat. All of us are facing the threat of extremism. All of us are facing a threat from people who want to close our societies off, who want to Talibanise our societies, who want to prevent people making progress and when we are faced with extremism, whether it is in Britain or in Pakistan or elsewhere in the world, first we have to take the necessary security measures and whether in Iraq or Afghanistan that means supporting the democratic will of the people expressed in their elections there. Second it means recognising that this is also about reconstruction, development, about the values for which we are fighting and the third thing is that we should recognise that this is indeed a global struggle of which there are many different aspects, and that is why it is not absurd in this situation to say that trying to make progress in the Middle East in respect of Israel-Palestine also has an impact on all these broader issues. In other words what I think we both share is a vision of this that is about a debate that is global in nature, that has many different aspects to it some of which are to do with security and military force but some of which are to do with challenging the ideas and the ideology of the extremists and some of which is to do with reconstruction, with development, with economic progress. But whatever angle we come at this from the result has got to be the same, that we are empowering the moderate people - to take the President's phrase "enlightened moderation" - we are empowering the people who believe in that at the expense of the extremists.
To fail at this would be defeatist and we mustn't be defeatist.
Could you tell us, Sir, what will be the background for doubling financial assistance and further ... What do you think when there are reports that Taliban are getting sentenced in Afghanistan, and what should be the actual goal of the world for supporting Pakistan?
I think it is important that we support Pakistan's economic development, we support the reforms that the President is making, for example in the education system here and the purpose of our doubling our support to Pakistan is precisely because we can see immense progress being made and it is important to get behind and support that progress being taken further. And so it is not just about the issues to do with education. It is also to do with economic development and in tackling poverty, but I think I am right in saying that over the past few years, as well as the economic progress that has been made and indeed obviously in part because of it there has been a significant reduction in the number of people living in absolute poverty from a third down to a quarter. Now that is a fairly extraordinary achievement just in a few years. So really it is on the basis of the progress made that we think it is important that we - Britain - but also the international community get behind that progress in Pakistan and help it to move even further still.
Could I ask you both two brief questions. The leading US General in the Middle East said yesterday that the rise of Islamic extremism, if left unchecked could lead to a Third World War. Was he exaggerating?
And secondly you both talked about the Middle East. Some people would say that in order to secure a settlement in the Middle East you need to deal with Iran and in order to deal with Iran you really need to accept its nuclear ambitions.
Could I ask you both to comment on that please as well.
Well first of all in respect of Iran, no I think it is important that Iran abides by its obligations in respect of the Atomic Energy Authority, I think that is very important, but also the obligations the United Nations has put on it. Secondly, I think we are fighting against Islamic extremism that is based on a warped and perverted view of Islam. I think that is happening everywhere. And I think we are in the middle of what is a difficult global struggle and it has got many different aspects to it, one of which obviously is what is happening in Afghanistan, but one of which is what is happening here in Pakistan where the President has put forward a different vision for the future that is not I think just a vision for Pakistan but also has implications for other Islamic countries as well which is to say we can have a future as proud, confident nations, true to our faith but with a strong economy, with political development, taking our place in the international community, living in peace and harmony with others. This is a different vision and our task is to take on the extremists wherever they are and the truth of the matter is that the same forces that are causing difficulties whether it is in Iraq or in Afghanistan or in Britain or in Pakistan are united by an ideology and by a set of ideas that in my view is alien to progress and I also think is alien to the true and peaceful faith of Islam so there is a struggle that is taking place that we are in the middle of conducting and waging, and I believe we will win and obviously the consequence of us being defeated by it would be very severe. Of course, that is natural. But we won't be in the end. It may take time, it has been a long time growing, this extremism. It will take some time to defeat it, but it will be defeated in the end because that is the lesson of humanity that these types of ideology, that are basically backward and reactionary, in the end are not supported by the people so they can use violence and they can use terrorism but the weapon you have got against them is the fact that the people don't want it, and that is why we have got to continue until we win.
On the, I think you raised the point on a Third World War erupting because of ... terrorism has no borders. It doesn't have any defence lines, it doesn't have any kind of front line to be attacked or defended. It is a different kind of a war and I don't think it is going to lead to a Third World War as such. I don't see any signs of that. And in any case, when we are fighting terrorism it is the Islamic world within itself which is trying to fight extremism and terrorism and I have always propounded the theory of enlightened moderation. So I think any ideas of a clash of - inter-faith clashes - we must bring about inter-faith harmony and deal with it in a very sensible manner. I don't see it as a Third World War between two major powers or anything. I don't see that at all.
I would like to ask a question from both of you, Mr President and Prime Minister Tony Blair. I would like to ask a question about the Afghanistan question because I am not satisfied with your answer because for a start the situation is not improving. What policy should be done in Afghanistan to improve the situation in Afghanistan.
Well first of all I think you have got to get a balanced idea of what is happening in Afghanistan. Yes there are still tremendous challenges, which we know as much as anybody since British troops are down in the south in very difficult circumstances. But there has also been economic progress. The schools have opened back up, in particular to girls, there has been major investment in many parts of Afghanistan and they have had a political process with democratic elections. But what is necessary, as the President has just been saying, is that we put alongside the military, reconstruction, economic development and the politics. And I think he is absolutely right. It has got to be a combination of those things that is going to make progress there. But of course the Taliban will try to get a foothold back. They will. That is what you expect, but our will has got to be superior to theirs.
I would like to reinforce this and I think it is quite clear, as I answered in the previous question, that military alone will not lead to a solution, so we have to look at the political element, and in that I would suggest that what we have done to reach some kind of agreement with those elements who are for peace on the Afghan side so reaching a political agreement with them and then, maybe, having done that, then on both sides of the border reaching some kind of a consensus on a way forward on the political side. The other element is reconstruction and development. I have indicated to the Prime Minister also that we believe that there is a requirement of a massive inflow of developmental funds there, some kind of a Marshall Plan, some billions of dollars to be put in there for reconstruction effort in the south-eastern region of Afghanistan which is in turmoil at the moment.
But most of all I will end by saying again that unless we understand the environment correctly our strategy will never be correct so therefore to those who think that everything is happening from Pakistan and that Pakistan has to do more so that we succeed in Afghanistan is putting the argument absolutely wrongly. The Taliban problem is an Afghan problem, which is in the south-eastern region of Afghanistan, being supported by elements from this side. We need to put our house in order here on our side and make sure that this support is cut off, but the main battle is in Afghanistan in the south-eastern regions of Afghanistan and other than military we go on the political path and we go on the reconstruction path in a massive way. That is the way forward so maybe we can work to turn the situation towards success.
I just wonder if you take the war on terror - you take it in Iraq, take it in Afghanistan, take it in this country, take it in Britain, whether either of you would say that you are actually winning that war on terror at the moment and what you would point to to back that up. And secondly in view of the intelligence co-operation and the other matters what you would say to people in British society of Pakistani origin who increasingly say they feel uncomfortable in the United Kingdom.
I am not sure actually that that is what people of Pakistani origin feel in Britain and I think one thing that should be said right at the very outset is that the overwhelming majority that live in Britain are excellent law-abiding members of Britain's society and make a great contribution to Britain and we are proud of the contribution that they make. I think on your first question, this is the question that everybody asks, obviously. They see what is happening in different parts of world, they see on their television screens nightly terrorism in different parts of world. We have had a problem in Britain and in Pakistan there have been problems over a significant period of time so people say OK you are fighting this battle but are you winning it and what I would say is that we begin to win when we start fighting properly and I think we are now fighting properly but we have got to do more. And in particular what we have got to recognise is that where either in Iraq or in Afghanistan or anywhere else where there are people who are standing up for a different way forward we have got to back them and not give in to the terrorism that wants to thwart that. It means secondly that we have got to recognise that this is about ideas and values and we have got to make our values powerful and they have got to be combined with justice and a sense of justice and the third thing is, leading on from that, that means for the Middle East in particular but also worldwide where there is injustice we have got to be dealing with it. And that is why it is important that we deal with the Palestinian issue in a proper way. It is important that global poverty is at the top of the agenda. It is why there should be world trade rounds that actually put development at the top of the agenda. In other words, my view is in the end this global terrorism is based on an ideology that exploits grievance so what we have got to do is at the same time as we are taking on that ideology we have got to take away the ability to exploit grievance and if we do that then we will win and I believe that in each of these areas we are making progress but as I said a few weeks ago, this took a generation to grow and it will take a generation to defeat.