Pakistan Nato dispute ‘will not disrupt security co-operation with Britain for Olympics’
Pakistan’s bitter dispute with Nato over cross-border attacks on its armed forces from Afghanistan will not derail cooperation with the British security services in the run-up to the Olympics, the country’s foreign minister has pledged.
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
8:30PM GMT 20 Feb 2012
Britain views Islamic extremists trained in Pakistan as the likeliest source of a ‘lone wolf’ attack on the 2012 London Olympics and has sought intelligence assistance from Islamabad to try to prevent any atrocity.
Pakistan scaled back military and intelligence co-operation with American forces last November after a US-led Nato border raid that was supposed to attack Taliban insurgents but ended up killing 24 Pakistani soldiers.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph yesterday, Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s foreign minister, insisted that her country was not seeking to use the incident as leverage in its ties with Britain. “We have very intensive co-operation and it is becoming more and more strong. We are getting the right results. In the minds of the average Pakistani our relationship with the UK is seen in a positive light – that is not true for all our Western partners,” she said.
Relations with Britain were strong enough to withstand the impact of the “very consequential” attack by Nato forces at the Salala checkpoint, just over a mile from the Afghan border.
Indeed Mrs Khar said she called William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, for advice and support after the attack. “With William Hague I have that type of relationship I can pick up the phone and discuss any international or regional issue, get his views, give views,” she said. “I called to share with him the detail of the incident, also get his opinion and let him know how hard it was for Pakistan to deal with this.”
The 35-year old mother of two, who has been Pakistan’s foreign minister since last year, also said America would have to accept and accommodate itself to whatever rules Pakistan’s parliament sets out for bilateral ties later this year.
Despite pushing for direct talks between America and Afghanistan’s Taliban for years, Pakistan has reacted angrily to suggestions that it can force factions it harbours to the negotiating table.
“Clearly there are sometimes unreal expectations in terms of what Pakistan has or can do and what Pakistan cannot,” she said. “We have to make clear to [President Hamid Karzai] that whatever he and his government do it is up to us to assist him. The objective is peace and stability in Afghanistan. We would love to be on the sidelines, so we could concentrate on our own issues, our own challenges.”
Mrs Khar said that the West should learn the lessons of the lead-up to the Iraq war while attempting to confront Iran over its nuclear ambitions. She said Iran maintained that it was solely interested in civilian nuclear capabilities and wanted negotiation not confrontation.
She said Iran had not taken a belligerent stance towards its eastern neighbours, even as it had raised tensions across the Gulf and against Israel and the West. “When it comes to our relations with Iran, we have only seen a better relationship,” she said.
As a youthful, modern face of Pakistan, Mrs Khar said it was her mission to challenge perceptions of the country’s foreign policy that “were carved in stone”.
But she shrugged off suggestions that her appearance and gender were integral to her role. Rather, she said, the message was a demonstration that Pakistan’s view of the world had changed more fundamentally than outsiders believed. “I think what I say is more important than what my age is and what my gender is.”
British intelligence services rely on Pakistan to track and intercept radicals moving between Pakistan training camps and Britain. The security services maintain close operational ties to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and provide training to the country’s police officers.
Anatol Lieven, the author of Pakistan: A Hard Country, said London’s ties to Pakistan were so dominated by the Islamic terrorism threat that Whitehall had to be independent from America.
“Because of the diaspora and the radicalised bit of that diaspora, Britain has its own independent intelligence link to Pakistan,” he said. “We need direct intelligence as quickly as possible if people are going to Pakistan to receive training. We can’t afford to wait for the flow to go through Washington and come back. But Britain will not come up with our own plan for an Afghan settlement.”