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Chequers Summit

Volume 559: debated on Tuesday 5 March 2013

10. What assessment he has made of the outcome of the recent summit at Chequers attended by the Presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan. (145883)

The Chequers summit on 3 and 4 February brought together the political and security leaderships from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Both sides committed themselves to taking all necessary measures to achieve a peace settlement over the next six months, called on the Taliban to open a political office in Doha, and reaffirmed their commitment to a strategic partnership with each other. We will continue to support the two Governments in bringing about peace, taking into account the stability of the whole region.

I think that all of us in the House would echo the sentiments of the US ambassador to Pakistan, who said that he wished it to be a stable, prosperous and democratic country. Very much in that vein, given that she is a sizeable and important power in that region, what steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that radical Islamist elements within that country do not destabilise her nuclear role?

Across the House we are all very strong supporters of a democratic Pakistan. Pakistan is coming to a very important moment with a general election where, for the first time, a democratically elected Government will have served their full term to be succeeded by another democratically elected Government. The United Kingdom, of course, does a great deal to support Pakistan, particularly with the huge programme of the Department for International Development. That in turn is particularly focused on primary education in Pakistan, and we also seek to boost trade and investment.

In view of what the Foreign Secretary has just said, will he give us his assessment of the state of play in terms of what help elements of the Pakistani security force are still giving to the Taliban and insurgents?

One important aspect of the Chequers summit was that the Pakistani security establishment was there, representing the leadership of the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence. Their clarity and their support for pursuing a peace process, and for working with Afghanistan and with us in order to do so, were abundantly clear. This is therefore now the context in which Pakistan is looking at the Taliban. It wants the Taliban to come into reconciliation and peace.

I think that the strength and knee muscles of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) now deserve recognition.

Thank you, Mr Speaker; that is an interesting accolade.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on that extraordinary summit between two powers that were very unlikely to share a room together even a few months ago. I also congratulate our embassy in Kabul on the extraordinary work it is doing to promote the commercial side of Afghanistan, particularly the mining projects, which in the long run are the key to prosperity for the country.

Both points are very important. The embassy is absolutely working hard on such projects. On relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, one must never be complacent, and much work remains to be done. The two Governments, with our encouragement, have achieved a bigger improvement in their relations in the past six months than at any time in the previous 10 or 20 years. That gives us something to work on.