Blunt Cameron stands by Pakistan comments

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron has defended his frank comments about Pakistan, after ruffling diplomatic feathers in Islamabad and beyond.

The prime minister said Britain would not tolerate the idea that Pakistan could “look both ways” after revelations that the country’s intelligence services had secretly helped the Taliban.

Pakistan’s high commissioner to the UK said Mr Cameron had damaged the “prospects of regional peace” by undermining confidence in Pakistan’s commitment to the war on terror.

But the British prime minister stuck by his remarks in a joint press conference with Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.

“I believe in speaking clearly and plainly about these matters,” Mr Cameron said.

“We have seen not just the threat of terrorism but the reality of terrorism in the enormous losses on the streets of Mumbai, on the streets of London and we see week after week in Afghanistan.

“What we will continue to do is work with the Pakistan government to do everything we can to encourage them to crack down and to take on these groups that have caused so much pain and so much suffering.”

He received support from Dr Singh, who called on Pakistan to “be as serious in paying attention to terror under western borders of Pakistan as on the eastern borders of our side”.

He added: “I sincerely hope that the world community will use its good offices to promote this cause.”

Pakistani officials have reacted angrily to the suggestion that it is not doing enough to impose order on its lawless mountainous Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where the Taliban has found safe haven across the border from international forces in Afghanistan.

“The so-called intelligence leaks that allege Pakistani involvement do not have any credibility,” high commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan wrote in an article for the Guardian newspaper.

“The democratic government in Pakistan believes in a stable Afghanistan and by extension a stable region so that all nations in the region may focus their energies on addressing the plight of their poor.

“Instead of manufacturing evidence against Pakistan, it would be advisable for us all to work for stability in Afghanistan through peaceful means.”

Mr Cameron refused to moderate his rhetoric, however.

Speaking to the BBC, he acknowledged that the Pakistani government had “made progress in chasing down militants and terrorists”. But he added: “We need them to do more. And we should work with them to do more.

“As I said to them yesterday, it’s not acceptable to have those within Pakistan who are supporting terrorist groups and who do so much damage to their own country and to British people, whether in Afghanistan or back home in Britain.”

The prime minister is displaying a tendency towards outspoken comments on the world stage. In addition to his comments on Pakistan he has called Gaza a “prison camp” and insisted Britain is the “junior partner” in its relationship with the United States.

He added: “I just think in life, as in politics, it’s better to say what you think and be realistic and practical and hard-headed. That’s what I think British foreign policy should be about.”