Chinese Premier Li Keqiang waves to the audience during an event organised by Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) in New Delhi May 21, 2013. — Photo Reuters
ISLAMABAD, May 21: The Foreign Office has expressed the hope that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s two-day visit to Pakistan starting on Wednesday will help cement strategic ties between the two countries.
Foreign policy experts are attaching great significance to the visit during which agreements on several energy and infrastructure projects will be signed.
On the eve of the visit, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Song Tao has described Pakistan as an “all-weather strategic partner”.
Pakistan is China’s major ally in the region. The two countries have strong political and defence cooperation and want to intensify collaboration on the economic front.
“Pak-China traditional and friendly ties are based on shared principles and mutual interests entailing cooperation in diverse fields. Both countries hold identical views on important world issues and cooperate at international forums,” Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said on Tuesday.
China intends to explore the untapped market in Pakistan. A senior Chinese trade mission has arrived here a few days ago to identify the items that China may import.
The volume of bilateral trade stands at about $12 billion and the two countries are trying to increase it to $15bn over a few years. More than 100 Chinese companies are working on different projects in Pakistan with an investment of about $2bn.
Important among the agreements the two sides plan to sign during the visit are accords on Gwadar port and development of related infrastructure. Other agreements relate to the fields of economy, science and technology, space and upper atmosphere communication and energy.
This will be the Chinese premier’s first visit to Pakistan since assuming office in March. He will be in Islamabad days ahead of installation of a new government. He will meet Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N leader who will be heading the incoming government.
A senior Pakistani diplomat said the visit would convey a message of goodwill from China to the new government in Islamabad.
Prime Minister Li, who will be leading a high-powered delegation, will have extensive political engagements in Islamabad. Besides meeting President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, he will meet Senate Chairman Nayyar Bokhari, Speaker of National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza and leaders of major political parties. He will also address a special session of the Senate.
The Chinese premier will be conferred upon Nishan-i-Pakistan, the country’s highest award.
Issues related to regional security, particularly Afghanistan and withdrawal of coalition troops from that county, will feature in Prime Minister Li’s talks with Pakistani leaders.
“It is important to note that China relies on Pakistan’s input and perspective on regional issues,” a Pakistani diplomat said.