On Monday afternoon, Zardari is to meet France’s Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris to discuss Afghanistan and the fight against terror as the diplomatic spat between London and Islamabad continues.
Last week, PM David Cameron told Pakistan it must not “look both ways” in secretly aiding the Taliban and Afghanistan while pretending to seek regional stability, during a visit to Pakistan’s arch-rival India.
Sarkozy, however, might not be quite so critical, says Olivier Roy, a researcher at the Paris Centre for International Research and Studies (CERI).
“The French probably have the same views as the British but they will not express them for different reasons,” adding that “it’s not a good time to anger Pakistan, because in the perspective a withdrawal, the West needs the cooperation of its government.”
Roy also says the French will be treading quite lightly because relations with Pakistan have recently been marred by reports of corruption and killings. In 2002, 11 French engineers were killed in an attack in Karachi that many say was linked to a kickback row between French and Pakistani officials.
“The issue of selling arms in Pakistan will be more and more controversial because it puts France at odds with some friends and potential markets like India, which is a bigger, more stable, more democratic country,” he says.
According to the French daily Le Figaro, French and Pakistani officials failed to reach an agreement on a security deal Zardari and Sarkozy were expected to sign this week. The security accord was to include information swaps between Pakistani and French spy services and the sale of military equipment aimed at stepping up the fight against terrorism.
Zardari is to visit the UK on Tuesday, despite opposition calls he cancel his trip in the wake of Cameron’s comments.