David Cameron sparked a diplomatic row yesterday by warning that Pakistan should not be allowed to "promote the export of terror" to the rest of the world. Speaking during a two-day visit to India, the Prime Minister increased the pressure on Pakistan following this week's leak of classified documents about the war in Afghanistan, which suggested that Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency could be supporting the Taliban insurgency.
"We should be very clear with Pakistan that we want to see a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan," Mr Cameron said during a question and answer session in Bangalore. "But we cannot tolerate the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror whether to India, Afghanistan or to anywhere else in the world."
His spokeswoman stressed that he had not been accusing the Pakistani Government of sponsoring terrorism, but was repeating his demands for it to do more to "shut terror groups down".
Abdul Basit, a Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman, insisted: "There is no question of Pakistan looking the other way." He dismissed the claims in the leaked documents as "crude, self-serving and unverifiable" and said Mr Cameron should not have used them.
Pakistani senator Khurshid Ahmad, vice-president of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Party, warned that the Prime Minister's remarks risked fuelling "anti-American, anti-West" feeling on the streets. "I am deeply concerned," he said. "The basis on which this statement has been made is very fragile. The documents released are unreliable – 90 per cent of them have been attributed to the Afghan intelligence agencies, whose reports are unreliable."
Mr Cameron's comments came a day after he raised eyebrows on a visit to Turkey by describing Gaza as "a prison camp". Aides insisted his remarks about Pakistan were not a gaffe but reflected concern about suggestions in the leaked documents.
Later, the Prime Minister stuck to his guns, telling the BBC: "We have to be clear in our dealings with the Pakistanis ... it is unacceptable for support to be given from within Pakistan for any organisations that export terror."
He said he was choosing his words carefully because Britain believed there was a distinction between the government of Pakistan and some state agencies. But he conceded there had been "big progress" in targeting terror.
The Prime Minister told his Indian audience that Britain and India had been united in suffering from terrorism which originated in Pakistan. He cited the 2005 London tube bombings and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai.
Denis MacShane, a former Foreign Office minister, warned that Mr Cameron's "foolish insults" of Pakistan would be counter-productive. "He should be seeking to lower tensions between India and Pakistan and not involve Britain in one-sided policies which will alienate the important British-Pakistani community in Britain," he said.
BAE Systems, Europe's biggest defence contractor, and engine maker Rolls-Royce marked Mr Cameron's visit by signing a deal worth about £700m with a state-run Indian firm to supply 57 Hawk trainer jets to India.
The Prime Minister announced that export licences for civil nuclear expertise and technology to India would be approved, unlocking a potentially lucrative market for British companies.
The move follows lobbying by the British nuclear industry and comes despite opposition in Whitehall. Groups such as Rolls-Royce and Serco have been prevented from selling components because of fears the technology could be used for India's military programme.
Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, a member of the British delegation with Mr Cameron, said: "There are sensitivities we are conscious of, as are the Indian Government, but within those constraints we want to really push ahead with civil nuclear cooperation."