LONDON - Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said that Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan and was ready to offer all possible support in this regard.
Talking to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who paid a courtesy call on him here and discussed various issues of mutual interest, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif emphasised on the need of effective border management system between Pakistan and Afghanistan so that the issue of cross-border infiltration could be addressed.
The prime minister expressed his appreciation of the continuity of British government’s support to resolve outstanding issues between Pakistan and India.
He said more than six decades of mutual mistrust between the two countries resulted into enhanced defence spending at the expense of their social sectors.
This tit-for-tat policy must end now so that conditions of the people of the two countries could be ameliorated, he added.
The prime minister further stated that Pakistan was keen to resolve all outstanding issues with India through dialogue.
However, he added that the resolution of Kashmir issue was possible only when all the three stakeholders - Pakistan, India, and Kashmiris - were on board.
Hague welcomed Pakistan’s approach of reconciliation towards resolving all outstanding issues with India and Afghanistan through dialogue and said he was impressed by Pakistan’s efforts to create enabling environment for negotiations.
Separately, British Secretary of Department for International Development Justine Greening on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and discussed with him education, development and economic reforms agenda of Pakistan.
The prime minister informed the secretary that the government of Pakistan was committed to allocate more resources for the education sector of the country and was determined to increase the education budget of the country from two per cent to four per cent during his tenure.
The prime minister also briefed Ms Greening on the economic reforms agenda of Pakistan and said that there were no quick fixes to improve economy and hence sustained efforts were needed.
“It might take years but we are on the right track to set the economy right,” the prime minister said. He also said that government was not able to keep feeding the big state-owned organisations forever. Therefore, the problems of corruption, mismanagement and overstaffing would be addressed on priority basis.
The British secretary appreciated the prime minister’s resolve to enhance spending on education sector and offered all possible help to educate children in Pakistan.
It may be noted that DFID has been focusing on the improvement of education sector of Pakistan for the last several years. She emphasised on the need of better financial controls and fiscal discipline.
The secretary said that as far as Pakistan’s economic reforms agenda was concerned, it was a right step in the right direction.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Adviser on Foreign Affairs & National Security Sartaj Aziz, Minister of State for IT and Telecom Ms Anusha Rahman, Engr Khurram Dastgir Khan and others were present during the meetings.
Meanwhile, less than 10-member small official entourage of PM Nawaz Sharif during his visit to the United Kingdom may rightly be called the smallest, known at least, in the recent history of the country.
According to the available information, the prime minister during his UK visit is not accompanied even by his military secretary, chief of protocol and chief security officer or any other security official.
The prime minister decided to stay at his personal residence in the UK thus saving hotel expenses to be incurred by the national exchequer.
Later talking to media persons Wednesday, the prime minister said that anything which hurts Pakistan’s sovereignty will not be accepted. He said his current visit to the UK was bearing fruit due to the growing stronger bilateral ties. He said Pak-UK ties were on the high wave, growing stronger with each passing day.
Sharif said “In my US visit, I had also raised the issue that we wanted trade not aid.” About trilateral meeting in the UK, he said it was the first occasion for him after assuming the office that he had meeting with Afghan president and UK premier.
“In the meeting, all issues were discussed - how peace can be restored in Afghanistan, how elections could be held - as the peace in Afghanistan is linked to whole regional stability and also vital for Pakistan,” he added. About Quetta blast, he said, “The government wants to stop this bloodshed and loss of lives. It is the desire of public and the government is also determined to fulfill it”.
About relations with India, he said he had discussed the issue of Line of Control during his US and UK visits.
He said India should have no objection to third party mediation on Kashmir issue in line with the aspirations of Kashmiri people. “I have a realistic approach to the issue and if there is third party mediation, there should be no hesitation on part of India,” he added. The prime minister said Indian stance on the issue offered no solution as it proved futile to resolve the issue, flaring three wars between the both neighbouring countries in the last 65 years.
He said people-to-people contacts were a good thing, if these were improved.
He said Pakistan wanted good relations with India, enhanced friendship, trade and business cooperation and wanted to live like good neighbours with India.