Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday assured his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will remain the top priority of the new government in Islamabad.
After a detailed meeting, the Chinese foreign minister, who is currently in Pakistan on a three-day official visit, held a joint press conference with Qureshi to tell the media that the two sides have decided to initiate strategic dialogue and further enhance bilateral economic relations.
The visit came weeks after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief took oath as the prime minister.
The visit of the Chinese FM also acquired special significance as it is taking place days after a similar visit by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dunford, in which both Pakistan and the US had agreed to reset their ties and reached an understanding that the Trump administration and the new Pakistani government would try to deliver on each other’s expectations.
Qureshi, while addressing the presser, said that the two sides discussed various matters of mutual interest, including the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He said the two sides had discussed special economic zones along with the CPEC during their meeting today.
He said CPEC is 'proof' that the belt programme is a sustainable initiative. "The CPEC is proof of how seamless the belt and road initiative can become with the help of all stakeholders," he said.
The minister added that the Chinese foreign minister had extended an invitation to Imran to visit an expo in China in November as a guest of honour. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang were also invited to visit Pakistan.
During the meeting, many pressing issues were discussed, he said, adding that the need for close communication on regional issues was also highlighted during the meeting.
"CPEC will remain a priority for the government," he said.
Qureshi said that during today's meeting, he had shared the priorities of the new government in Islamabad with his Chinese counterpart. The security of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan was also discussed, he added.
Qureshi said that he had extended assurances that the country will ensure the security of Chinese officials working in Pakistan.
Qureshi said that the Chinese minister had appreciated Islamabad's role against terrorism and urged the international community to recognise the efforts and achievements made by Pakistan in this regard.
The foreign minister said that the two sides had also discussed that poverty alleviation and social development be incorporated into the future joint endeavours.
"We are proud of Pakistan and China's friendship," Qureshi had said before the meeting, noting that the friendship had "withstood every test".
'China to encourage imports from Pakistan'
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media that Beijing will support Pakistan in developing its industrial sector as well as increasing exports to China.
"China will give a lot of sustenance to encourage imports from Pakistan," he said. "We have decided to strive for a greater balance in two-way trade. China will earmark amounts of subsidiaries to encourage imports from Pakistan and will send more tread coalition teams to Pakistan. We will also broaden the market access to Pakistan's competitive agricultural products."
"The two sides will work to complete negotiations to upright the FTA by the end of this year to further enhance the level of trade," he added.
"China will support Pakistan in developing the industry sector," he said, adding that development-oriented cooperation was focused on during the meeting.
He said that he was visiting the country to renew China's commitment to Pakistan and that China stands firmly by Islamabad as its counterpart.
"China and Pakistan are close friends. Our friendship has stood the test of time," he said while stressing the need of enhanced strategic communication between the two sides.
"China will help Pakistan developing a local manufacturing centre," he added.
In addition to meeting his Pakistani counterpart, the Chinese FM will meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, outgoing president Mamnoon Hussain, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser also also the president-elect Arif Alvi.
Later in the day, the Chinese foreign minister met Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and appreciated the security provided to CPEC.
Earlier while emphasising the significance of Wang's visit, a Foreign Office spokesman had noted that it was the "first official visit by a Chinese dignitary since the new government was formed in Pakistan."
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying had hoped that the "two countries, through the visit, can renew our traditional friendship, promote mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas and elevate the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership to a new high."