Trip strengthens ties with South Asian partner

Updated: 2013-05-24 07:13

By Ding Qingfen (China Daily)

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Trip strengthens ties with South Asian partner

The past two days in Pakistan were scorching hot, with temperatures above 40 C, but what is even warmer is the China-Pakistan relationship, with the arrival of the Chinese delegation led by Premier Li Keqiang in the South Asian nation.

On Thursday, the premier wrapped up his two-day official visit in Pakistan, the second stop of his nine-day journey abroad. The two sides vowed to deepen strategic ties in spite of the global situation, signing a joint declaration and a number of accords and memorandums of understanding, including one for establishing an "economic corridor".

As China's all-weather friend, the reception that Pakistan extended was more than welcome.

On Monday, after it entered Pakistan's airspace, the Chinese delegation's private aircraft was escorted by a formation of six Pakistani air force JF-17 Thunder aircraft. President Asif Ali Alizardari received Li at Nur Khan Airbase and held a welcoming ceremony for Li there, including a 21-gun salute in honor of their distinguished guests.

Along the road from the airport to the Islamabad Serena Hotel, where the Chinese delegation was staying, and also in the urban area, about every five meters were billboards that had pictures of Li and Zardari, and slogans describing the friendship between China and Pakistan. Some of them said: "Long live Pakistan-China friendship", "Pakistan and China are good friends, good brothers, good neighbors and good partners", and "Salute to the great Chinese friends!"

Such elaborate arrangements deeply impressed the Chinese premier. "I saw a lot of slogans on the way to the hotel. I remember one of them was 'Good neighbors is our blessing'. China and Pakistan are good neighbors, and our friendship is a blessing to both people and also to the benefit of Asia and the whole world," Li said during the joint media briefing together with Zardari after the bilateral official meeting on Wednesday.

Zardari expressed his warm welcome to his Chinese friend, saying, "Today is one of the happiest days in my life. ... Welcome, Premier Li, to your second home.

"The visit will mark another important strategic step forward in reinforcing the strategic partnership between our two countries."

Ties between China and Pakistan are brotherly. China has provided economic and technical assistance to Pakistan, and each considers the other a close strategic partner. In China, there are popular online words and expressions such as "batie" (meaning faithful pals) and "If you love China, please love Pakistan as well."

That is why Li chose Pakistan as one of the four destinations of his first overseas trip since he took office. And his trip to Pakistan assumed additional importance because he opted to visit Islamabad during a transition of power to the new government. Media from Pakistan, such as Dawn, said this is a "move that sends a strong message of goodwill and solidarity to the new leadership".

"The China-Pakistan friendship can go beyond time and political changes, and it's a huge treasure for both," Li said.

On Thursday, Li made a speech to the Pakistan Senate, during which he emphasized the importance of the nations' friendship for each other and the region by saying "we would rather give up gold than the China-Pakistan friendship".

Li closed the speech by saying "Pak China, dosti Zindabad" ("Long live the China-Pakistan Friendship").

He was continually interrupted during the speech, as the audience and Pakistani senators applauded 12 times through the traditional way of patting the table with their right hands.

On Wednesday, Li and Zardari had an official meeting, and they agreed to push forward the strategic partnership relationship, becoming "trustworthy partners for each other, and reliable brothers for each other".

But for Li, the priority of the trip is not only to deepen the traditional friendship, but also to enhance economic cooperation. The agreements the two nations signed covered energy, maritime cooperation and satellite navigation.

To maintain sustainable, healthy and stable economic growth in the long term, the Chinese government is committed to expanding domestic consumption and promoting an economic rise in the western region. And Pakistan is also seeking to restart its economy. Li said the two countries could benefit from each other's strategy, and the corridor will have a strategic significance for the development of China, South Asia and Asia, and for peace and prosperity in the region.

China has provided much foreign aid to Pakistan, with the Sino-Pak Friendship Center in Islamabad being an iconic building.

At the end of the trip, Li went to the center on Thursday afternoon, holding talks with local people representing Sino-Pakistani friendship. After that, Li planted a Sino-Pakistani friendship tree.

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(China Daily USA 05/24/2013 page3)