Cameron's foreign policy 'gaffes' split opinion in Britain
ON (AFP) - Straight-talking or gaffe-prone? Britains new Prime Minister David Cameron has divided opinion with some unusually direct public comments on foreign policy from Pakistan and Gaza to the US.
Cameron seems to have patched things up with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari after he accused Pakistan of promoting the export of terror on a visit to India last month. The pair insisted relations between Britain and Pakistan were unbreakable and vowed to step up cooperation on security after meeting Friday for the first time since the controversy erupted.
But the dust has not yet settled on other controversial remarks made by Cameron, a centre-right Conservative, in his first visits to world leaders since taking office as head of a coalition government in May.
While in Turkey, he called Gaza a prison camp and said he was angry at the slow pace that Turkeys bid for European Union membership was progressing, seen as a jibe at France and Germany. He also acknowledged that Britain was the junior partner in relations with the United States ahead of a trip to the White House.
Last week, in an apparent slip of the tongue, he even suggested that Iran had a nuclear weapon - although Downing Street later insisted he was only talking about Tehrans pursuit of one. He is increasingly getting a reputation for being a foreign policy klutz, with two right feet, both of them firmly planted in his mouth, said Chris Bryant, a Foreign Office minister in the last Labour government under Gordon Brown.
Other commentators have suggested that Cameron might be better off conveying his stronger opinions in private, rather than through very public soundbites. Cameron defended his comments on Pakistan by saying it was important to speak frankly about these things to countries that are your friends and this attitude also seems to extend to other nations.
And some experts suggest that, while there may have been some gaffes, Camerons straight talking could be linked to a shake-up of how British diplomacy works.
The 43-year-old prime minister wants to see greater emphasis on boosting Britains ties with emerging economic powers like India and Turkey.
This means turning away from the interventionist policies pursued under the previous Labour government - particularly prime minister Tony Blair, who took Britain into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - and, by implication, freeing up Cameron in his foreign policy declarations. I think theres a genuine shift of emphasis, Chris Brown, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, told AFP.
I think the feeling that the present government has is that the last government had a rather exaggerated view of Britains importance within the world and they want to say look, its not like that, were a medium power.
Whatever the motivation, Camerons approach seems to have found favour with the British public - for now at least.
Asked to sum up their view of his comments abroad, 49 percent agreed that he was being plain speaking and other countries will respect that while 27 percent said he was being a loudmouth and risks upsetting relations with our allies in a YouGov/Sun newspaper poll released earlier this month.