Despite hopes to the contrary of the hullabaloo of media doomsayers the official visit to the United Kingdom by Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has triumphed as mother of all visits during last 25 years by the previous Prime Ministers except martyred Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's in 1994.
Difference in his visit and others was quite obvious. He was representing a democratic Pakistan while others were totalitarian rulers. And this was the fact recognised by host Prime Minister David Cameron when he praised Prime Minister Gilani for his unprecedented efforts in strengthening democracy.
Prime Minister Cameron's further endorsement that "the enemies of Pakistan were enemies of Britain and friends of Pakistan were Britain's friends" must have thrown cold water on the critics of Pakistan's democratic government who had not only done their dirty best in undermining his visit in Pakistan but had also carried on a vicious campaign in UK.
On arrival, Prime Minister Glani was given a rousing reception befitting a democratically elected Prime Minister. His official visit began on May 9 when he was the only foreign head of government invited to attend to the state opening of mother of all parliaments addressed by Her Majesty the Queen. Later he was a shining star at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association's reception attended by the parliamentarians and Ambassadors.
Later the Prime Minister was the Chief Guest at a reception hosted by me for the members of the British Parliament in the prestigious Pavilion Terrace of Westminster. It was attended by over 60 MPs, five UK Ministers, members of House of Lords and other dignitaries.
May 10 was the crucial day when the two Prime Ministers met along with their teams for the first Summit Review of the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue (ESD), which was initiated by them in 2011 during Prime Minister Cameron's visit in April.
Prime Minister Cameron warmly welcomed Prime Minister Gilani and his entourage and expressed his profound hope that the progress so far made on the five strands would be further accelerated by the visit.
The two Prime Ministers covered extensively the areas of the ESD and had intense discussions on the issues institutionalised in the framework for cooperation in five strands (i) trade and business relations (ii) financial, macro-economic stabilisation and development cooperation (iii) education and health (iv) defence and security and (v) cultural cooperation. Both the Prime Ministers were confident that the two countries would achieve the target of enhanced trade and investment target of 2.5 billion by 2015.
Both Prime Minister Cameron and Prime Minister Gilani reiterated that Pakistan and UK were bound together by long standing ties of shared history, values and enormously rich people-to-people links that were sure to grow from strength to strength with the passage of time.
They emphasised that through the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue, the two countries were intensifying co-operation in areas of shared interests and mutual benefits. In addition to the deliberations on ESD Prime Minister Cameron acknowledged unequivocally tremendous sacrifices by Pakistan in men and material in the ongoing war on terrorism. He was confident that the unflinching resilience by the people and armed forces of Pakistan would soon triumph over the evil of extremism and open floodgates of prosperity for both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The two leaders had also frank and in-depth exchange of views on the regional situation and all other areas of mutual concerns. Prime Minister Cameron expressed satisfaction over the recent developments for improving ties with India especially in the areas of trade and economic co-operation.
Prime Minister Gilani acknowledged with gratitude the UK's support in achieving the WTO tariff waiver for Pakistan. He also thanked Mr Cameron for his pledge to continue to advocate Pakistan's case for enhanced trade access to the EU through GSP+. He conveyed to him the enormous success of the visit by British trade Minister Lord Green. It went a long way in removing misconceptions about Pakistan. He was glad Lord Green had firsthand experience for assessing the tremendous trade and investment potential offered by Pakistan, FDI and business friendly environment and that it was an ideal country to do business with.
They two leaders expressed satisfactions over the fact that both sides have evolved a road map for the promotion of trade and cultural ties. Subsequently with the concurrence of the two Prime Ministers, the road map was launched to further provide impetus and focused approach in accelerating bilateral trade.
On the understanding that economic growth and poverty reduction in Pakistan were pivotal for prosperity of future generations and root out terrorism, the two sides agreed that the global economic crisis required both countries to make tough decisions in order to deliver future growth and prosperity. In this regard they agreed to a regular dialogue between the two governments in the economic, investment and trade sector, more exchange of people-to-people contacts and opportunities for businesses from the two countries were welcomed by both Prime Ministers.
Regarding cooperation in the security area, the two leaders took note of the work being undertaken on shared national security challenges, including on counter-terrorism through the Joint Working Group and the National Security Discussions to address the common challenges we face. While acknowledging the huge sacrifices made by ordinary people in Pakistan, Prime Minister Cameron assured UK's complete support to Pakistan, as a partner against the menace of militancy, terrorism and extremism.
The two leaders welcomed the growing cultural exchange between our museums and in academia. In this context, last year 17 new partnership agreements were signed between universities in UK and Pakistan. The Cultural Roadmap launched during the visit will pave way for further cultural cooperation for bringing the people of the two countries closer together.
The two Prime Ministers also noted the contribution made by over one million strong British Pakistanis to UK for enhancing the relationship between our two countries. The evening spent with the British Pakistan Foundation provided a useful opportunity to Prime Minister Gilani to meet enterprising British Pakistanis.
Six cabinet Ministers including Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary, DFID Secretary, Defence Secretary, Secretary Energy & Climate Change and Minister for Trade Lord Green also called on the Prime Minister to discuss the scope of cooperation in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
On the business front, the Prime Minister was hosted by the Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank for a meeting with seven top British companies including Stemcore Steel, GSK, Mother care, Monsoon, Unilever, Premier Oil and Oracle Coal fields investors besides attending a roundtable with prominent British businessmen and investors at the London Stock Exchange hosted by LSE CEO Mr Xavier Rolet.
In the education area, the adoption of the National Declaration on Education, committing all stakeholders to undertake necessary steps to develop education roadmaps and tackling under-nutrition were welcomed by the two Prime Ministers. A group of vice chancellors of prominent British universities also called on the Prime Minister to discuss prospects of further cooperation between the two countries on the education side.
The Prime Minister Gilani, alongside Prime Minister Cameron, also attended the launch of the Conservative Friends of Pakistan by Baroness Syeeda Warsi. The Forum is an important initiative and seeks to provide another political platform to energize Pakistani community into the British politics. Besides, it seeks to serve as a bridge between Pakistan and the United Kingdom.
The visit would go a long way in further upgrading our bilateral cooperation in all areas of common interest for the mutual benefit of the two countries and their people. The extensive support received from the UK to Prime Minister Gilani has been a blow to anti-democratic forces in Pakistan.
(The author is Pakistan's High Commissioner to UK)