Describing Pakistan as the “iron brother” of China,Premier Li Keqiang today hailed Islamabad’s “positive contribution” towards maintaining peace and stability,combating terrorism and promoting development in South Asia.
Heading to Pakistan tomorrow after his successful visit to India,Li promised to announce a number of lucrative deals to firm up ‘all-weather’ ties between the two long-time allies.
Li termed Pakistan as an “iron brother” of China saying Beijing recognised the positive contribution Pakistan has made for peace and stability,combating terrorism and promoting development in South Asia,in an interview with Pakistani media ahead of his visit.
“The international community should give Pakistan full understanding,recognition and necessary support,” official Associated Press of Pakistan news agency quoted him as saying.
“On behalf of the Chinese government,I wish to reiterate solemnly China’s continued firm support to Pakistan in its efforts to uphold independence,sovereignty and territorial integrity and achieve national stability and development. This is what China-Pakistan comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation is all about,” he said.
During his two-day stay in Islamabad,Li will hold talks with PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif who is set to form the next government,besides President Asif Ali Zardari.
He will also meet leaders of Pakistan’s parliament,political parties and armed forces,officials here said.
About all-weather ties between the two countries,Li said “China-Pakistan relationship is indeed special,because it transcends the changes of the times and politics and represents a fine example of friendly state-to-state interactions”.
“I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate to the Pakistani people and the international community that the new Chinese government will continue to pursue a policy of friendship with Pakistan,” he said apparently playing down the significance of China’s interest in cultivating close ties with India,Pakistan’s arch-rival.
Like during his India visit,he also recalled his visit to Pakistan as leader of a youth delegation 27 years ago where he had unforgettable memories.
“When it comes to Pakistan,the first word that comes to the mind of the Chinese is “iron brother”. To us Chinese,Pakistan is always a trustworthy friend who is as solid as iron. Actually,Chinese netizens refer to Pakistan as “Iron Pak”. This testifies to the strength of China-Pakistan friendship,” he said.
He promised to address the trade imbalance with Pakistan.
Pakistan’s exports to China last year increased by nearly 50 per cent,he said.
“The political bond between China and Pakistan is unbreakable and our business ties as a whole have maintained growth momentum. Pakistan is the first South Asian country to sign a free trade agreement and currency swap agreement with China,” he said.
China will step up consultations with Pakistan on second phase tax reduction negotiations under the framework of China-Pakistan Free Trade Area.
“Our two sides should focus on carrying out priority projects in connectivity,energy development and power generation and promoting the building of a China-Pakistan
economic corridor,” he said.
About China’s policy towards South Asia,Li said it is important to boost the development of South Asia saying it is a vibrant and promising region and peace,stability and development are the common pursuit of countries in this region.
He said,China shares borders with five South Asian countries.
China’s destiny is closely connected with that of South Asian countries in both good and hard times,Li said.
“We hope that countries in the region will live in friendship and cooperation and build South Asia into a land of unity,stability,happiness and harmony,” he said.