London: Did Prime Minister David Cameron blink first during talks with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari at Chequers yesterday?
According to British media he did.
In their face-to-face at Chequers after Cameroon sparked off a storm with his comment that Pakistan was looking both ways on the issue of terrorism, a triumphant Zardari - dubbed the `artful dodger` in the British media - claimed that he won the latest war of attrition.
According to Zardari, "we had some straight talk and we became friends".
He claimed to have convinced Cameron that Pakistan was doing all it could to stop militant jihadi groups "exporting terror" to Afghanistan and Britain.
At the same time, he appeared to rule out a new crackdown or any specific additional security measures to satisfy Cameron`s demand that Pakistan do more to close down terror groups on Pakistan soil.
Calling Zardari the `artful dodger of Pakistan`, The Guardian said in an editorial: "In the eyeball-to-eyeball session, it was Mr Cameron who blinked first.
"Zardari got a bland communique declaring that the relationship between the two countries was unbreakable, a British commitment to a Marshall plan for Afghanistan, and above all, no hint of anyone in the Pakistan security establishment `facing two ways`.
"As a result, a beaming Zardari could claim afterwards that there had never been any problem in the relationship". In an interview to The Guardian titled `Zardari claims win in terror row with UK`, he said: "We are already fighting all of these groups, I have lost my wife (Benazir Bhutto) to these terrorists, we have lost 30,000 of our population.I
think we are fighting every possible way we can."
Zardari went on to say: "We are already doing quite a bit and we are always trying to do more and get closer, better. It`s not something that I need to be told to do. We do it on our own. I think Cameron and the British government are looking at Pakistan and understand that Pakistan is doing its best."
During his visit to India, Cameron said: "We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country (Pakistan) is allowed to look both ways, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world".
Asked whether he had in effect forced Cameron to back down, Zardari said: "We always had a good relationship with Britain and I would say it`s a triumph for democracy. The fact is we increased our understanding between myself and the prime minister of Britain.
"I think the world accepts, if you see the joint communique, it talks about all the positive things Pakistan has been doing that Pakistan is part of the solution."
The joint communique issued by Downing Street after the talks appeared to gloss over differences on counter-terrorism strategy.
It said: "Both leaders discussed the role being played by the democratic government (of Pakistan) in fighting against terrorism. The prime minister recognised the sacrifices made by Pakistan`s military, civil law enforcement agencies and people in fighting violent extremism and militancy and appreciated the efforts of the democratic government.
"Both leaders appreciated the close co-operation that already exists between respective police forces and other security agencies. The two leaders agreed that such co-operation needs to and will intensify."
Downing Street described the talks between Cameron and Zardari as "positive and constructive", with "excellent dynamics" between the two.
Zardari said: "I definitively think that all co-operation will be enhanced. David Cameron is a man I can work with. He can plead Pakistan`s case on the international forum and get us more support which we need to do a better job."
Asked about criticism at home that he had neglected victims of the floods by coming to Europe, he said he had raised funds in Abu Dhabi, France and Britain.
He said: "It had never ever rained like this in 100 years. Now if I had known it is going to rain so much, and floods would bring that devastation then, we would not have planned this trip."
Zardari said investment was the key to winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Some form of Marshall plan needs to be made for Pakistan. That`s what I mean how we will get the hearts and minds of the poor people of Afghanistan, by giving them a commercial boost, taking them away from the Talibs who are giving them better pay than we are giving."