PM Sharif to visit UK in April

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Apr 17, 2014.

Islamabad – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit the United Kingdom later in April for a summit-level meeting with a focus on further improvement in Pak-UK bilateral trade, the Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Tuesday evening.

Aziz, who is the country’s de facto Foreign Minister, was speaking as the chief guest at the birthday celebration of Queen Elizabeth II at the British High Commission.

“Pakistan-UK relationship is improving at a rapid pace,” he said. “We have had high-level visits in the recent past and the Prime Minister will visit UK later this month for a summit-level meeting.”

Aziz said the meeting will focus on trade and investment cooperation. He said the bilateral trade between UK and Pakistan has already risen to £2.3 billion from £1.6 billion since the new Pakistani government took charge.

“We hope to increase it to £3 billion (by 2015),” he said.

British High Commissioner Philip Barton said Pakistan has gone through a historic democratic transition since the Queen’s birthday celebrations in 2013. 2014.

“We strongly support Pakistan as it consolidates democracy,” Barton, who has now been in Pakistan for three months as UK’s top envoy, said.

The High Commissioner said UK has a “very deep and broad relationship with Pakistan, from sporting and cultural links to education and business ties.”

He said there are around one million people of Pakistani origin living in Britain and many hundreds of thousands more who visit the UK each year for work, study or tourism.

The British are investing in Pakistan’s education sector, Barton said, and by year 2015, UK aid will help benefit four million children in Pakistani schools. About security issues, the High Commissioner said, “the UK stands behind Pakistan and its people as they tackle the evil of terrorism.”

But he said trade is central to the Pak-UK relationship. Aziz also noted that British companies are already working in Pakistan and the Pakistani government is trying to boost bilateral trade and investment opportunities with the UK.

“Unlike aid, trade improves relationship between people,” Aziz said.

Barton and Aziz toasted each other’s Heads of State at the birthday party, which was attended by around 1,000 guests including government officials, politicians, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives from the civil society and the business community.

Queen Elizabeth turns 88 on April 21, 2014. According to the British High Commission, 2014 is also the 62nd anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne, when she became both the British Sovereign and the Head of the Commonwealth.


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