Foreign Secretary William Hague has insisted that Pakistan remains “an important partner” for the UK after leaked diplomatic documents risked damaging relations with Islamabad.
US embassy cables published by WikiLeaks laid bare British concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and suggested the Tories would take a tougher line with the country than Labour.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox, then a shadow minister, told US Ambassador Louis Susman last December that the Tories were “less dependent” on votes from the Pakistani community.
Pakistan’s high commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, acknowledged the potential damage from the leaked documents. “You are dealing with the relationship with states,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “You have built them over the years and all of a sudden something gets out – it’s top secret, it’s classified, it harms the relationship.”
But Mr Hague stressed that Pakistan remained a “top priority” for the Government after talks with the country’s foreign minister, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
He tweeted that he had had “good discussions” with his Pakistani counterpart, adding: “Pakistan is one of our top priorities and an important partner.”
The UK’s concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal were communicated to the US by Mariot Leslie, then the Foreign Office’s director general of defence and intelligence, at a meeting in September last year.
Now Britain’s permanent representative to Nato, she is quoted as saying that “the UK has deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”. She went on to say that China could play a “big role” in “stabilising Pakistan”.
Senior Ministry of Defence official Jon Day is quoted separately saying that Pakistan was “not going in a good direction”.
In another cable, Dr Fox is quoted criticising the Labour government for reinforcing Indian concerns that UK foreign policy is “skewed to Pakistan”. The Conservatives were, however, “‘less dependent’ than the Labour Party on votes from the British-Pakistani community”, Dr Fox told Mr Susman.