With the row over Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks about Pakistan “exporting terror” still simmering, fresh tensions were reported on Wednesday ahead of his talks with President Asif Ali Zardari after the latter said that NATO forces were “losing the war” in Afghanistan.
His comments in an interview to the French newspaper Le Monde prompted a sharp rebuttal from Mr. Cameron who said he disagreed with Mr. Zardari’s assessment. He also made clear that he did not regret his statement made during his trip to India that Pakistan could not look “both ways” while fighting terrorism.
“I gave a pretty clear and frank answer to a clear and frank question and I don’t regret that at all,” he told the BBC.
The exchanges came a day before the two leaders are due to meet at Chequers — British Prime Minister’s weekend retreat — for dinner on Thursday, to be followed by formal discussions on Friday.
Mr. Zardari, who has been criticised in Pakistan for going ahead with the visit despite Mr. Cameron’s “insulting” remarks, said he would raise the issue in his talks.
“I will explain face to face that it is my country that is paying the highest price in human life for this war,” he said adding that the war against terrorism “must unite us and not oppose (sic) us”.
In his Le Monde interview, Mr. Zardari said the West had “underestimated” the strength of the Taliban and was “losing the war”.
“The international community to which Pakistan belongs is losing the war against the Taliban. This is above all because we have lost the battle to win hearts and minds,” he said, warning that the Taliban were “strengthening” their grip.
Rejecting Mr Zardari’s view, Mr Cameron said: “It is very difficult, it’s very tough what we’re asking our troops to do, but there’s a basic programme here, which is: protect the people in a classic counter-insurgency programme, build up the Afghan army and police and, as they are capable of taking care of their own security, we will be able to leave. It’s not some starry-eyed vision of building the perfect democracy.”