(London) Pakistani Prime Minister H.E. Mohammad Nawaz Sharif visits London this week. Prime Minister Cameron and Prime Minister Sharif met at No 10 Downing Street official residence of the British Prime Minister and reaffirmed the strong bonds of friendship and partnership between Pakistan and the UK. The two leaders underscored their commitment to support the UK-Pakistan relationship by agreeing to open a new British Deputy High Commission in Lahore, Punjab. The UK and Pakistan have a long history of working closely and effectively together as members of the Commonwealth. The UK’s large diaspora population of Pakistani origin has made a significant contribution to British cultural and economic life. Both countries are committed to broadening their relations across many areas. This was Prime Minister Sharif’s first official bilateral visit to the UK since Pakistan’s landmark elections in May 2013. Prime Minister Sharif is also meeting the Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, Defence Secretary, Secretary of State for International Development and delivering a keynote address at the Pakistan Investment Conference.
The visit marks the launch of a UK-Pakistan cultural and education cooperation ‘road map’ which sets out the basis of cultural engagement between Pakistan and the UK, enables collaboration on a calendar of cultural engagement for the next 3 years, and builds on elements of the strong existing UK-Pakistan relationship on education. In partnership with UK providers, the road map includes the British Council’s commitment to train 1 million teachers of English over the next 4 years in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provinces to help enhance the quality of English language teaching in Pakistan. A new Memorandum of Understanding on the status of the British Council in Pakistan maps out a range of joint activities around the British Council’s work there, including English language learning, arts and the creative industries. The roadmap also highlights work through the Department for International Development to support delivery of primary and secondary education in Pakistan, which by 2015 aims to benefit 4 million more children in school and train 90,000 teachers per year. The UK welcomed the priority Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Government has given to education, including the recent commitment to increase education spend to 4% of GDP. Both Governments noted recent progress on education in Punjab and the re-launch of the UK’s education partnership in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which will benefit all primary and lower secondary school children in the province. Both sides also welcomed the partnership between the UK and the Government of Punjab to provide vocational skills training to 135,000 people living in poverty, 40% of them women. Pakistan agreed to the importance of honouring the shared history and sacrifice made by those soldiers from what is now called Pakistan during WWI and as part of this committed to a memorial copse in Islamabad to mark the fallen.
The UK and Pakistan also discussed how to further the trade and investment links between the UK and Pakistan. Both sides renewed their commitment to increase bilateral trade to £3 billion by 2015. A revised Trade and Investment Road map sets out new cooperation between the UK and Pakistan, including four new Trade Champions to progress the business agenda. On specific new initiatives, UK company Asian Precious Minerals has announced a new project with over £100m of investment in Pakistan. The UK also supports the growing dialogue between Pakistan and UK investors highlighted by a roundtable meeting with Prime Minister Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar hosted by Peter Sands, Global CEO of Standard Chartered Bank. Prime Minister Sharif was also guest of honour at a trade and investment focussed conference attended by over 100 delegates. The UK welcomes signs of growth in Pakistan’s economy as a result in achieving GSP+ trading agreement status with the EU: GSP+ status is dependent on a number of measures including human rights conditions, which are monitored by scorecard. The UK will provide Pakistan with further advice and support on effective monitoring.
The UK and Pakistan welcomed indicators of an upturn in economic activity and agreed on the importance of improved conditions in Pakistan to foster economic stability, inclusive growth and prosperity. They agreed to work together to support the Government of Pakistan’s implementation of critical economic reforms, particularly to increase the tax to GDP ratio towards 15% and welcomed the developing relationship between the Federal Board of Revenue and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to support this. The UK and Pakistan welcomed the launch of UK support to help improve the business environment and increase domestic and international investment in small and growing businesses in Pakistan. This aims to create up to £400 million in additional economic production, and generate up to 400,000 jobs, half of which will be for women and young people. Both the UK and Pakistan agreed on the importance of effective regional cooperation for stability and growth. Both sides agreed to work to improve Pakistan’s trade competitiveness, particularly in reducing trade barriers between Pakistan and its neighbours. The UK and Pakistan agreed to exchange expertise and business dialogue on energy. Both sides also welcomed the launch of the Government of Punjab’s new approach to delivering health reform, supported by the Department for International Development, which aims to improve basic primary healthcare provision across the province, including increasing immunisation coverage and reducing maternal and child deaths.
Prime Minister Sharif also held comprehensive discussions with UK Ministers about security and stability in Pakistan and the wider South Asia region. They agreed to the importance of supporting the new Afghan government and developing closer co-operation with the new government in India. Both Governments also reaffirmed their commitment to working in partnership to counter the shared threats from terrorism, organised crime and illegal migration and to support Pakistan’s new National Internal Security Policy. On support to a secure and stable Pakistan, both sides agreed to continue counter-terrorism training and support, including aviation security, exploring building on our existing counter-IED programme, and increasing security cooperation at customs.
The UK welcomed Pakistan’s endorsement of the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict launched by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague in September 2013 during the United Nations General Assembly. The Foreign Secretary will co-host, with the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict on 10 – 13 June 2014 to bring the international community together to turn the commitments made in the Declaration into practical action on the ground.