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Trumps' message is loud and clear to Pakistan, says UK

Substantial issues of security between Pakistan and Afghanistan should be dealt with on a bilateral basis, said Mark Field, foreign office minister for India and Asia.

world Updated: Nov 21, 2017 07:24 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) is greeted by Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khan Abbasi, before their meeting at the Prime Minister's residence on Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) is greeted by Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khan Abbasi, before their meeting at the Prime Minister's residence on Tuesday.(AP)

US President Donald Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia has sent a “loud and clear” message to Pakistan to put its house in order, Britain said on Thursday, adding that the role for India envisaged was “not entirely clear”.

Foreign Office minister for India and Asia, Mark Field, who recently returned from a visit to India, told reporters London’s position was that substantial issues of security between Pakistan and Afghanistan should be dealt with on a bilateral basis.

“We obviously have a relationship and collaboration with the United States. It is not entirely clear what the role for India is, may or may not be…I would warn you not to over-interpret what isinvolved in the new South Asia policy of the Trump administration”, he said.

“Although it is pretty clear that for the first time since September 11, 2001, there was a stronger condition from the US point of view that they were looking for Pakistan to put their house in order”.

“I think that was loud and clear and that message went through to Pakistani politicians and military in the conversations that have taken place”, added Field, who was a member of Britain’s Intelligence and Security Committee between 2010 and 2015.

On shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry last week calling on New Delhi toallow international human rights monitors into Jammu and Kashmir, he said Labour’s position on the trouble-torn state was “expedient”, and one driven by itsvoters with origin in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir or Pakistan.

“It is easy to come up with such demands when in opposition, but it isdangerous to play to thevoters' gallery. We (the Conservative party and the Theresa May government) differ from Labour on this, as well as on its demand to reopen a probe on UK’s role in Operation Bluestar”, he said.

One of the ministers who voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, Field smiled when asked if promises made by his pro-Brexit ministerial colleagues -including allowing chefs from the Indian subcontinent to help the struggling Indian food industry after Brexit -would be fulfilled.

“You should ask those who made the promise”, he quipped, without mentioning Priti Patel, International development secretary, who hadpromised the visa relaxation for the struggling Indian food industry during the pro-Brexit camp’s campaign.

According to Field, it will be business as usual for Indian companies after Brexit, expected in March 2019, and expected continued investment by them in Britain. “Fragmentation” of the trade infrastructure, he said, was bad for all, including forthe European Union.

“There is a fixation about free trade agreements, but there is not a single country with which we don’t already have good trade relations. But we will seek to reboot the Commonwealth during the April 2018 CHOGM, and would like to see India at the centre of the group”, he said.

Field denied there has been a loosening of what is called the ‘Cameron doctrine’, which meant the Conservative party focusing on the 1.5 million-strong Indian community in Britain, and on India in international relations.

India and the Indian community were assiduously wooed by David Cameron, first as the Conservative leader and later as the prime minister. It was during his prime ministership that Britain ended its boycott of Narendra Modi in 2013, when he was Gujarat chief minister (the boycott was in place due to the 2002 riots).