Pakistan will improve relations with India, Zardari promises

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari Wednesday promised to improve his embattled country’s ties with India under the terms of a new “strategic dialogue” between Pakistan and Britain.

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The strategic dialogue, to be co-chaired by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Zardari, will rest on four “fundamental principles”, Brown said after the two leaders met at his Downing Street office in central London.

Brown listed these principles as: tackling violent extremism and terror; a commitment to sustainable development in Pakistan, especially in its border areas; a renewed commitment from Pakistan to work for stability and promote reconciliation; “and of course, of paramount importance, a commitment to normalise relations between India and Pakistan”.

Brown also announced a 12 million pound humanitarian aid package.

Zardari thanked Brown, saying: “We have always come to Britain to ask for help whenever a dictator has taken over in Pakistan, and you’ve offered us political asylums.”

“You have helped us dialogue with the world’s democracies to bring in democracy in Pakistan,” Zardari added.

This was their first appearance together after Zardari skipped a joint press conference in Islamabad last month in what was claimed to be a snub over the arrest of 11 Pakistanis in an anti-terror raid by British police.

Although all 11 were later released without charge, several are awaiting deportation to Pakistan.