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Cameron's Pakistan terror comments defended

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 28 July 2010

William Hague defends David Cameron's comments about terrorism in Pakistan, while Economics Editor Faisal Islam writes from Delhi as the prime minister's visit to India reignites the row over British immigration.

David Cameron speaking during a visit to India

Speculation of a rift over the government's proposed immigration cap for non EU migrants had threatened to overshadow the prime minister's trip to India, where Mr Cameron is joined by Mr Cable and other key ministers for a trade delegation tour.

A country rich with highly skilled professionals, Mr Cameron said the debate was open to India's government and businesses.

He said: "Everyone is free - the Indian government and businesses included - to make their arguments about how high the cap should be."

Cracks in the coalition?
Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable said he was pushing for a "light touch" on immigration in the coalition cabinet.

Economics Editor Faisal Islam reports from India that the difference in opinion in the coalition is now clear.

"They say a stressful holiday can test the sturdiest of marriages. And so it is with the coalition's odd betrothal.

"In their mission to wrap India's booming economy and Britain's need to export more into two mutually stabilising coils of DNA, yet more internal debate has been fomented, this time over skilled migration. Vince Cable made comments to the Indian press expressing concern about his proposals for a permanent cap on non-EU immigration. As an interim measure the cap has been set at 24,100 this year.

Hague defends Cameron's Pakistan terror comments
During the visit David Cameron came under criticism after he warned Pakistan that it should not be allowed "to promote the export of terror" in the world. Speaking in India, the prime minister appeared to step up rhetoric against Pakistan over accusations that it supports terrorist groups.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is with the prime minister on his visit, defended Cameron's comments.

"He was saying that we look to Pakistan as we would look to any country to fight terrorism in all its forms. I think what he said was absolutely correct.

"Pakistan has made great progress in many ways in fighting terrorism and there have been terrible terrorist outrages in Pakistan as of course there have been here in India – well all remember what happened at Mumbai but we do look to countries to make sure we’re fighting terrorism at every opportunity and in every form.

"He wasn’t talking about the Pakistan government, but things within Pakistan that caused terrorism elsewhere, and so that is a very important distinction. He was not actually accusing the Pakistan government of doing something.

"Have there been terrorist incidents that have had some connection with Pakistan? Well yes, of course there have been, that is widely acknowledged and so yes we look to all the authorities in Pakistan to do everything they can to combat that now and in the future. As I’ve mentioned were working very closely with India on counterterrorism and we will work with all nations across the world to counter this scourge."

"Right now there is an ongoing consultation about the nature of the permanent cap that will kick-in in April. Remember the context: the cap is a Conservative manifesto commitment. The Liberal Democrats wanted an amnesty. This is where the India trip focussed minds.

"Indian businessman, politicians, and commentators have been united in their concern and hostility to proposals to restrict migration from India to Britain. Similar restrictions may have damaged the relationship with India in the 1970s, and led a new generation of Indians to look to the US rather than the UK.

"On a number of occasions on this trip when I have raised the issue of India opening up its markets to Britain, Indian businessmen have replied that freer movement of people is an essential part of the relationship.

"The issue is particularly keenly felt in the rampantly successful Indian IT industry. There the heads of Infosys, Wipro, and TCS believe that restrictions on their software engineers is a form of backdoor protectionism as damaging as an unfair agricultural tariff.

"So what we have is a business department taking very seriously the injunctions of the prime minister on forging a special relationship with India's business elite. And a Home Office which understandably wished to fulfil the mandate to cut immigration.

"So somewhere lower than 100,000, but higher than 24,100. Exactly where David Cameron decides the compromise lies will say a lot about this coalition. And they'll be listening hard in India. For now the difference of opinion is clear."

For more analysis read Faisal Islam's economics blog here.

Border control
Ministers started their border control and immigration consultation in June - outlining four "milestones", the first of which is to set an interim limit on migrants by September this year.

The next milestone is to tighten the system for granting student visas by January 2011, the third is to set a new annual cap on non-EU migrants by April 2011.

The coalition plans to have a Border Police Force up and running by April 2013.

Less than two months into the first phase of the coalition's consulting process, and the prime minister did little to quash talk of a debate, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This government is taking government off the sofa and putting it round the cabinet table.

"It is perfectly legitimate for the Business Secretary to argue for the advantages of free and open markets and that is what Vince does. But we decide these things in the Cabinet in a reasonable and sensible way."

In his Queen's Speech, prime minister David Cameron said the coalition government had agreed there should be an annual limit on the number of non-European Union migrants admitted into the UK to live and work.

He said in the speech: "The government has agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. This is one of the ways we will reduce net migration back to the levels of the 1990s – tens of thousands not hundreds of thousands.

"While it is important that the UK attracts the brightest and the best people who can make a real difference to the country's economic growth, immigration is too high. In the long term we should up-skill British workers so that we do not need as many economic migrants to fill jobs.

Mr Cable said today that a "grown-up debate" about how these rules should be administered is taking place. He had a perspective "which I will bring to India as the Business Secretary," he said, "and president of the Board of Trade, wanting to encourage trade and inward investment."

"For that reason I am making very clear the perspective I would like to bring to bear on this. It's not disagreement... there is no conflict."

Mr Cable said businesses from India and elsewhere had raised concerns with him already about the limits a cap would place on highly skilled professionals moving to the UK.

"I have made it very clear my job around the Cabinet table is to make the case for business," he said.

"Business is clear we want Britain to be open for business. We want flexibility and we want these regulations, when they come in, to be administered with a light touch.

"That's a business perspective. It doesn't just apply to India, it applies more widely, that's entirely understandable."

Mr Cable would not be drawn on the number of Indians migrating to Britain. "I can’t give a concrete answer to that because it’s in a consultative stage," he said.

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