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December 1, 2017

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US brought UK senior officials to keep Pak military on side

LONDON: British security think-tank, the Royal Unites Services Institute (RUSI), has said that relationship between British and Pakistani armies is transforming from one based mostly on pomp ceremony and personal friendships to one based on shared strategic interests.

In an analysis, the RUSI drew similarities and closeness between the two armies and said that armies of two countries have grown closer in recent years. It said that the Pakistan Army can sometimes be more British than the British Army, at least when it comes to pomp and ceremony as its cavalry officers have the best horses, and they play in the top polo competitions in Argentina and England.

It added: “Many of their sons go to Britain’s top boarding schools, and they even fashion their moustaches in the same manner as Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener.” It said that Pakistan Army’s Major Uqbah recently served as a trainer at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst; now British NCOs are on their way to becoming part of Pakistan’s military academy at Kakul; there is also talk of a British Major heading to become an instructor in Pakistan, and at present there is a Pakistani colonel at the Defence Academy at Shrivenham, where he is a member of the Directing Staff and has his own syndicate group.

The RUSI analysis, written by Kamal Alam, said that since the US-led Nato invasion of Afghanistan, it has been no secret that the West, and, in particular, the Americans, have seen the Pakistan Army, especially its intelligence services, as the biggest external obstacle to the destruction of the Taliban. While the relationship with the US has soured, particularly after a US military helicopter strike killed at least 24 Pakistani troops in 2011, British senior officers have been brought in to keep the Pakistani military on side, it said. “It has even been argued by the Americans and Afghans that the British military has been too soft on the Pakistanis and cared more about Pakistani concerns than those of the Afghans,” said the report while giving example of the former British envoy to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard CowperColes, who wrote in his book, Cables from Kabul that two British defence chiefs, Field Marshal Charles Guthrie and General Lord Richards formed close friendships with the Pakistani top brass.

This month, the report said, General Carter became the first British Army chief to be the main guest to attend a Pakistan Army cadets’ passing out parade, an honour reserved normally only for Saudi and other Arab royal families. “In the past year alone, Carter has been to Pakistan three times, more times than he has been to any other non-Nato member. It was these personal British friendships that have kept Pakistan from completely falling out with the US and Nato. Now the British army wants to capitalise on this relationship as it bids to evolve into a smaller, but smarter, force.

The report said that the UK-Pakistan relationship is becoming more strategic to the extent that the two armies could even fight together against a common enemy and that British army is keen to learn from the Pakistan Army’s reported success in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which Sanders praised, going so far as to say that what the Pakistan Army had achieved in Waziristan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas ‘has not been achieved for 150 years’.

RUSI said that the UK was aware of Pakistan’s close ties with the Gulf States and wanted to grow closer. The RUSI report said that Pakistan and UK hold regular security conferences with each other and share intelligence and ideas on numerous issues.

It said that British Army to help with the recruitment of more British Muslims – the majority of whom are of Pakistani origin – into the UK armed forces. British Muslims have reportedly been reluctant to join the armed forces partly because they believe that the UK is waging a war against Islam. “By saying that the British and Pakistani armies are fighting against terrorists and not Islam, the army is attempting a new approach,” said the report, revealing that Pakistani military officers are regular guests at recruitment events to help to explain this, and the British Army has invited Pakistan Army officers to address key community leaders in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham to help not just with recruitment but also to explain what it is doing in regional conflicts.

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