Britain on Tuesday said it had regularly raised with Pakistan the need to take “consistent action” against terror groups, but qualified its response to a petition by saying Islamabad had made “significant sacrifices in opposing terrorism”.
The petition on the British government website had sought London’s strong condemnation of Pakistan for providing safe haven to terrorists, and listed terror attacks in India and elsewhere in recent years. It attracted nearly 20,000 signatures.
Obliged to respond to any petition that attracts 10,000 signatures, the Foreign Office posted a response that was received with some disappointment in the Indian community. Some were looking forward to it in the context of Prime Minister Theresa May’s three-day visit to India from November 6.
“The UK and Pakistan have a shared interest in the battle against terrorism. We are committed to working together to combat both the terrorist threat and the extremism that sustains it, in a human rights-compliant manner,” the response said.
“The UK regularly highlights to Pakistan, at the highest level, the importance of taking effective action against all terrorist groups operating in Pakistan, as Pakistan has committed to do. We recognise the significant sacrifices that Pakistan and its people have made in combating terrorism,” it added.
“The UK government's failure to condemn Pakistan for providing safe havens for terrorists is disappointing,” said London-based Manoj Ladwa, chair of Indians for Labour. “Linking terrorism to poverty and adopting a policy of offering UK taxpayer aid money as a solution is misconceived,” he told Hindustan Times.
“As a longstanding strategic ally, the UK government should be standing shoulder to shoulder with India,” said Ladwa, who was a strategist during Narendra Modi’s May 2014 election campaign.
“Instead it appears to be soft-pedalling. In doing so, the UK is letting down the victims of terror and also the growing number of people in Pakistan who are fed up of their government’s policies of harbouring and sponsoring terror, instead of concentrating on economic and social development,” he added.
A senior community leader said after the response, May’s remarks on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism during her India visit will be keenly awaited, particularly since Britain has not made any significant comment since former premier David Cameron warned in Bengaluru in 2010 that Islamabad “could not look both ways” on the issue.
The petition response went on to state how Britain is helping Pakistan develop its capacity to protect itself and prosecute those who plan and commit terrorist attacks, in relation to counter-terrorism, reforming the justice system and training to detect and disrupt explosives.
“Countering the terrorist and extremist threats in Pakistan also requires investment in the underlying issues that can contribute, such as improving the rule of law and education as well as tackling poverty. The UK is working to help address these issues including through our bilateral aid programme,” it said.
A map of the petition’s signatories shows people from across Britain had signed it, with the largest numbers from constituencies with significant concentration of the Indian community, such as Harrow, Brent, Isleworth, Leicester, Reading and Milton Keynes.
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson had condemned the September 18 attack in Uri in these words: “The UK strongly condemns this morning’s terrorist attack in Indian-administered Kashmir. I offer my deepest condolences to the victims and their families and friends. The UK condemns all forms of terrorism, and stands shoulder to shoulder with India in the fight against terrorism, and in bringing the perpetrators to justice.”