ISLAMABAD, April 5, 2011 (Crickettomorrow.com) - British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Pakistan and India to look beyond cricket diplomacy and embrace their common interests, during a visit to Islamabad on Tuesday.
He described the sight of the Indian and Pakistani premiers sitting next to each other to watch the cricket world cup semi-final last week in Mohali as a "tremendous sign of hope for the future".
"I believe the time is ripe for your countries to look even further beyond what divides you and embrace what unites you," Cameron said in a speech to university students during a one-day trip to Islamabad.
"Two democracies, with young, ambitious populations and all the potential in the world -- and you live side by side. The opportunities for mutual progress are simply enormous. The opportunity to trade and grow."
He pointed out that currently, Pakistan represents just one percent of all India's trade, and India just five percent of Pakistan's.
"Experts say that the potential is there to expand this by as much as 50 times. Just think what that would mean for jobs, investment and living standards," the British prime minister said.
"And then there's the thing you can never put a price on -- a stronger relationship between your countries addressing all the security concerns on both sides would mean peace and security for your people."
Wary of previous attempts to weigh in -- then foreign secretary David Miliband caused a diplomatic spat in January 2009 when he urged India to resolve the dispute over Kashmir -- Cameron said the issue "is for you to decide".
But he promised his government would not take sides.
"There have been accusations that in the past, countries in this region have been played off one against the other by the west. I am clear -- this whole approach of choosing sides is wrong," he said.
Cameron added: "India is very important to the UK. Pakistan is very important to us too. We don't have to choose between a strong relationship with either Pakistan or India -- we want a strong relationship with both."
The prime minister was speaking on his first trip to Pakistan since taking office in May 2010, where he sought to soothe tensions caused by his remark on a trip to India last year that Pakistan was exporting terror.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last week that "permanent reconciliation" was required with Pakistan, after he met his counterpart at the nations' cricket World Cup semi-final.
Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani held brief talks during the match, which India won, as the two leaders used the fixture to promote better ties between their rival countries.