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Britain hails Pak reforms, vows support

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband welcomed the "reforming zeal" of Pakistan's civilian government that he said was turing the country into an outward-looking force for regional cooperation.

world Updated: Nov 26, 2008 13:06 IST

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband welcomed on Wednesday the "reforming zeal" of Pakistan's civilian government that he said was turing the country into an outward-looking force for regional cooperation.

Miliband arrived in Pakistan from neighbouring Afghanistan where 8,000 British soldiers are battling an escalating Taliban insurgency that is buttressed by support from militant strongholds in northwest Pakistan.

"The reforming zeal and instincts of the government are coming to the fore in Pakistan in a positive way and are gaining the confidence of the international community," Miliband told reporters after talks with his Pakistani counterpart.

"That's obviously true on the economic front, but I think it's also very significant, the foreign policy dialogue that's being pursued with Afghanistan, with India," he said.

Economic problems and surging militant violence have beset the eight-month old civilian government, raising fears the nuclear-armed Western ally on the front line of the global campaign against militancy could become a "failed state".

The International Monetary Fund approved on Monday a $7.6 billion loan for Pakistan to avert a balance of payments crisis and prevent the government defaulting on international debt obligations.

While grappling with the economic crisis, the government led by President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, has been trying to improve strained ties with both Afghanistan and India.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was due to travel to India later on Wednesday for a four-day visit that will include talks on the old rivals' tentative four-year peace process.

"GOOD TO HEAR"

Zardari replaced former army chief Pervez Musharraf as president in September. Musharraf managed relations with India for nearly a decade and oversaw a marked improvement in ties after the launch of their peace process in 2004.

But Musharraf's relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai were often on the verge of breaking down over Afghan complaints Pakistan was failing to tackle militant strongholds on the Afghan border and stop cross-border infiltration.

But since August, the Pakistani military has been battling al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the northwest and Afghanistan's NATO force says cooperation with the Pakistani army is the best it has ever been.

Miliband said Afghanistan depended on Pakistani help.

"They certainly need and depend on very close collaboration and cooperation with Pakistani partners on a whole range of economic as well as security issues," he said.

"It's very good to hear that that is going to be taken forward in a serious way."

Miliband said Britain, the former colonial power in the subcontinent, was keen to support fully Pakistan's relatively new civilian and democratic government.

"We will do that with a real sense of urgency and commitment," he said.

Britain said in July it was doubling assistance to Pakistan to 480 million pounds by 2011, making it the second biggest recipient of British aid, with greater emphasis on the militancy-plagued border with Afghanistan.