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Wednesday February 28, 2024

Avenues being explored for trade in IT sector with Pakistan: British HC

August 30, 2023

British High Commissioner to Pakistan Jane Marriott has said that the UK-Pakistan trade has nearly tripled now to 4.4 billion pounds, and avenues are being explored to have trade in the IT sector.

At the moment, the trade is primarily “about textiles from Pakistan, going to the UK, and about metals and parts coming from the UK to Pakistan”, she said in reply to a question on Tuesday during her visit to the British Royal Naval Ship, HMS Lancaster, which is at the Karachi Port for a one-day naval exercise, Ex Whitestar, with the Pakistan Navy.

UK Defence Advisor, Pakistan, Brigadier Paul Hayhurst, Deputy Commander Combined Maritime Forces Commodore Philip Dennis and Commanding Officer of the HMS Lancaster Commodore Chris Sharp accompanied Jane Marriot, who is the first female British high commissioner to Pakistan.

On a question regarding how the UK was facilitating Pakistan to combat climate change, Marriot said that just last year they had put 39 million pounds into the flood responses, humanitarian response, which helped 1.4 million Pakistanis recover.

She said they are also focusing on things like adaptation and resilience as a climate change component funding. “So all the projects that we're in the starting phase at the moment are big projects about how we can leverage climate financing, private international private financing, with some seed funding from UK investment into climate resilience work here and to increase in renewable energy.”

On a question regarding their mechanism on keeping a check on funds, the British high commissioner said they are able to track that down. She said they make sure that it all goes to the right place and delivers the outcome.

When this scribe of The News asked how their mechanism for funding developing projects impacted climate, she responded: “Things like environmental impacts are very important to what we do, not least because the environment and biodiversity and climate is at the heart of everything.”

Moving on towards relations in other fields, Marriot shared how Brigadier Paul Hayhurst had spent time at the National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad. “We usually have someone through there every year, we often have people at the college,” she said.

The ship is named after the Duke of Lancaster, whose other title is King Charles III. “So you’re on the King’s ship,” said Marriot, speaking to a group of media persons invited to cover her visit to the HMS Lancaster. The ship belongs to the British Navy, but it is named after King Charles III. On May 24, 1990, the queen had launched a ship.

She explained that they ensure commercial shipping goes “from point A to point B without worrying that it's going to be boarded by pirates or blown up or anything like that.” The CMF also stops human trafficking, and smuggling of drugs and weapons.

Commodore Dennis has control of all the Royal Navy ships and personnel operating throughout the Middle East, integrating the Gulf, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, down to the Seychelles and Southwestern. He also heads a UK Mine Counter Measures (MCM) force, which consists of a large ship that they use as a float forward support base for engineering logistics, command and control.

“Their primary role as a warfighting platform is to clear areas of the ocean, for any sort of mine threats,” he said, adding that they work predominantly with the GCC nations and provide a council service to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt as well. He is also the deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), which is the world's largest maritime coalition.

Their role, he said, is to enable the freedom of navigation by conducting lots of security operations across the region.

In their meetings with Pakistan aquatics force, Philip said that they discussed how the ship could interdict the flow of narcotics and weapons, which come down from areas through Balochistan’s coast predominantly and then get transferred to ships at sea off the coast of Pakistan and transferred across the Indian Ocean into countries which then supply the narcotics and weapons to Europe.

The HMS Lancaster being captained by Commodore Chris Sharp’s team is on the frontline checking that flow of narcotics. In the first half of this year, he said, they’ve intercepted approximately $2 billion worth of street value of narcotics. “And that's everything -- methamphetamines synthesised drugs, heroin and hashish,” he revealed.

Commodore Chris shared how the crew of the ship changes every four months. In their last four months, the ship had quite success by interdicting quite a lot of weapons in the Gulf of Oman. “There were some advanced weapons, some ballistic missile components, some drone UAV engines, and quite a lot of narcotics.”

On a question about the significance of the ship for Pakistan, Chris said the countries in this region don't need to rely on their own organic navy. “They rely on a collective coalition of all those 34 nations (which are part of the CMF) for the wider regional security of the entire region,” he explained.

The UK hosts Pakistani military officers in the UK for different courses. About 20 students from across the world attended their World College of defence studies, which runs in the UK every year. Jane Marriott said that they all came out to Pakistan and were sent by the NDU back in June to see and learn from the experience of Pakistan.

Brigadier Paul Hayhurst thinks Pakistan's relationship with the UK is very important to them as the country is a nuclear power. “Pakistan is situated geographically in a very key area of the world. And that is important to us. What is equally important is the people-to-people ties,” he said.