The U.S. was promised before the British general election last May that a Conservative government could be tougher on Pakistan, as the Tories claimed to be less dependent than Labour on domestic votes from people with Pakistani connections.
In a leaked 10 December 2009 cable the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., Louis Susman, recorded meeting the Tory frontbencher Liam Fox, now the defence secretary.
“Fox criticised the Labour government for policies which reinforce the Indian government’s long-held view that HMG’s [Her Majesty’s government’s] foreign relations on the subcontinent are ‘skewed to Pakistan’” He is quoted as assuring Mr. Susman that “the Conservatives are ‘less dependent’ than the Labour party on votes from the British-Pakistani community”.
As soon as he became prime minister, David Cameron made a significant point of trying to build a special relationship with India, travelling to Delhi in June on a trade mission.
While in India, the Conservative leader urged Pakistanis not to face both ways on the issue of terrorism. His remarks caused a diplomatic furore: they were directed at Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, long regarded by the U.S. to be playing a double game in Afghanistan by covertly supporting the Taliban.
Mr. Cameron’s approach can now be seen to have been prefigured in Washington’s previously secret dispatches. The London embassy reported that he and “an eager group from his frontbench” met a congressional delegation led by the Republican senator John McCain in 2008.
“Mr. Cameron . . . raised Pakistan, noting that 60,000 individuals travel to Pakistan from the U.K. each year and that this has implications for the U.K.’s own significant domestic ‘terror threat’” Mr. McCain stressed to him how worried he too was about Pakistan: “If they don’t co-operate and help us, I don’t know what we are going to do.” On 9 April 2009, Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, met Mr. Cameron and George Osborne in London “to urge HMG [under possible future Conservative leadership] to engage more on Pakistan”. Mr. Holbrooke pressed Cameron to help combat terrorism by capitalising on the “striking connections” between the large Pakistani community in the U.K. and “its home country”.
“Mr. Cameron noted that most of the approximately 1 million U.K. citizens of Pakistani origin (mostly Punjabis and Kashmiris) living in the U.K. were not pro-Taliban but had been radicalised by the Iraq war and were militant over Kashmir. The Conservative party leader agreed that HMG ‘must get U.K.-Pakistan relations right’ and stressed the Conservatives’ commitment to this goal should they assume power.” Mr. Cameron went on to criticise Labour’s dealing with groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Council of Britain. “On the radicalisation of British Pakistanis, Mr. Cameron said the U.K. had ‘gotten it wrong domestically’? He argued that PM [Gordon] Brown’s policy had been too willing to engage with radicalised but non-violent Muslim groups? ‘We let in some crazies,’ Mr. Cameron said, ‘and didn’t wake up soon enough.’”
Copyright: Guardian News & Media 2010