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China, Pakistan to work on energy ties

2013-05-23 09:36 Global Times     Web Editor: Sun Tian comment

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday on his first official visit to Pakistan, marking the second leg of Li's first overseas tour since taking office.

The trip, which came on the heels of the election of Pakistan's new prime minister Nawaz Sharif, reaffirms the time-tested all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan and serves the interests of the two countries and the whole region at large, analysts said.

Wang Dehua, head of the Southern and Central Asian Studies Institute of the Shanghai Institute for International Strategic Studies, said apart from consolidating political ties, a major objective for Li's visit is to seek closer economic and trade cooperation.

In an interview with Pakistani media, Li said there is still "great potential" for the relationship, suggesting both sides focus more on carrying out prioritized "energy development and power generation, and the building of a China-Pakistan economic corridor."

Severe power shortages have sometimes sparked protests and crippled key industries in Pakistan.

"Both nations are expected to step up their cooperation on building the oil pipeline and railroads linking the two countries," Wang told the Global Times.

The shape of a China-Pakistan energy corridor has been given a boost since a Chinese company took over operation of Pakistan's Gwadar port in February.

"Closer cooperation with Pakistan would also improve the opening up and economic development of western China, in terms of linking to the Indian Ocean," Wang said.

In a testament to their special friendship, Li's plane was escorted by six Pakistani Air Force fighter jets when it entered the country's airspace and he was warmly welcomed by both Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and interim Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso.

Li said in a written statement upon his arrival that China would always support Pakistan's efforts to preserve its sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as materialize stability and development in the country.

Despite the change of governments and leadership in both nations over the years, their friendship has actually strengthened, Wang noted.

The visit to Pakistan was after India, where Li said the world's two most populous nations could become a new engine for the global economy.

Shi Yinhong, a professor with the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that China can also play a role in helping improve the relationship between Pakistan and India, between whom there have been three wars, and two of which over Kashmir.

"As their joint neighbor, there would not be conducive to China's relations with both if there are tensions between them," Shi said.

 Premier Li Keqiang's First Overseas Trip

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