Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) yesterday saluted Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as an “old friend” of Beijing, extending more warm words to Islamabad as it tackles a crisis with the US over Osama bin Laden’s killing.
Gilani has spent much of his visit to China lauding Pakistan’s decades-long “all-weather friendship” with Beijing, as pressure mounts over the raid that led to bin Laden’s death and US lawmakers demand a review of aid to Islamabad.
Before their talks at the Great Hall of the People yesterday, Hu said Gilani’s visit would “certainly give a strong boost to the good neighbourly friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation” between the two countries.
“Our all-weather friendship and strategic cooperative partnership has stood the test of time and the changes in the international and regional situation,” Gilani said in a speech at Peking University on Thursday.
“We have stood by each other at all times and under all circumstances,” he said — a message that has permeated the visit.
Islamabad, always close to Beijing, has highlighted that relationship in the wake of the May 2 killing of the al-Qaeda leader by US special forces on Pakistani soil — an operation that has thrown US-Pakistan ties into turmoil.
US Senator John Kerry and US special envoy Marc Grossman were both in Islamabad this week to try to stem the damage done to relations that are key to a decade-long US-led fight to end the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Lawmakers have called for a review of US aid flowing into Pakistan, saying Islamabad must do more to combat extremists and explain how bin Laden could have lived in a Pakistani garrison town, apparently for years, undetected.
Pakistan received a total of US$2.7 billion in aid and reimbursements from Washington in the last fiscal year, which ended on Oct. 1.
China, already Pakistan’s main arms supplier, has agreed to provide 50 more JF-17 fighter jets to Islamabad on an “expedited” basis, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday — perhaps evidence of stepped-up military cooperation.
The two countries also have growing commercial links — two-way trade totaled US$8.7 billion last yera, up 27.7 percent year-on-year, according to Chinese data — and have collaborated extensively in the energy sector.
Only two weeks ago, Pakistan opened a nuclear power plant built with China at Chashma in the central Punjab Province and said Beijing had been contracted to construct two more reactors to ease energy shortages.
Gilani on Thursday urged Chinese business leaders to invest in the sector — crippling power shortages in Pakistan have restricted production to around 80 percent of the country’s needs.
“Joint ventures, with equity participation of Chinese corporations and financial institutions, can transform Pakistan’s economic landscape and would certainly prove to be a win-win scenario,” the visiting prime minister said.
The two countries hope to see two-way trade hit US$15 billion by 2015.
China, meanwhile, needs Islamabad’s help in stemming potential terrorist threats in its far-western mainly Muslim region of Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan.