Britain has “deep concerns” about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, leaked diplomatic documents suggested.
Documents from the latest cache of leaked US cables demonstrate that the UK and the US have similar anxieties about Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal.
US officials are quoted citing the danger of Pakistani fissile material finding its way into the hands of extremists.
The UK’s concerns 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 goes on to say that China could play a “big role” in “stabilising Pakistan”.
The Ministry of Defence’s director general for security policy, Jon Day, warned US officials separately that relations between Pakistan and India were especially strained. He expressed support for the encouragement of a ‘cold-war’-like relationship” between the two countries that would “introduce a degree of certainty” and apparently went on to say that Pakistan was “not going in a good direction”.
The disclosures could test relations between Britain and Pakistan, a vitally important regional ally and neighbour of Afghanistan. The Foreign Office said it would not comment on the detail of the documents obtained by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian.
In a further embarrassment for Britain, US officials were apparently told that their interests would be protected at the Iraq Inquiry. Mr Day is cited by Ellen Tauscher, the US undersecretary for arms control and international security, as having given the assurance in September last year.
He is said to have “promised that the UK had ‘put measures in place to protect your (American) interests'” during the inquiry, chaired by Sir John Chilcot.
An inquiry spokesman said: “The Iraq Inquiry is independent of the British Government. The protocol agreed between the Iraq Inquiry and the Government allows for material to be withheld from publication if publication would damage international relations or breach the third party rule governing non-disclosure of intelligence material.”