China made its most forceful assurance yet of ‘unswerving’ support to Pakistan as Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani arrived on a four-day visit.
Pakistan has pinned hopes on this visit to secure greater aid and strategic backing from Beijing to counter sinking ties with the US and India.
China is the only power that has rushed to Pakistan’s rescue and refused to speculate on Laden’s potential support network in Islamabad. As Gilani landed in Shanghai on Tuesday, the Chinese foreign ministry reminded the world of Pakistan’s ‘great sacrifices’ as a ‘victim’ of terrorism and asked nations to rally in its support.
“The Chinese government will unswervingly continue to support Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu. “We are willing to work together along with Pakistani side to create a bright future for that relationship.”
Ahead of his visit, Gilani in turn praised China as Pakistan’s ‘best and most trusted friend’ and described the friendship as taller than the Himalayas and deeper than oceans.
China insists that its ties with Pakistan are not aimed at countering India or any nation. But Pakistan’s strained relationship with the US and India will be on the table when Gilani meets the Chinese leadership. Pakistan’s ambassador to China Masood Khan told the Chinese media that Gilani’s visit will tackle ‘strategic developments in the region’.
“There are a lot of new factors post-Laden. Chinese leaders are interested in hearing what will happen in Pakistan, what Pakistan will do,’’ strategist Zhao Gancheng at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies told HT.
He emphasised that 'China wants to win hearts in both India and Pakistan, even though we know it’s difficult'. Officials on both sides are silent on nuclear cooperation.
This is Gilani’s fourth and most significant visit to China as Prime Minister, coming days after a second Chinese nuclear reactor was inaugurated in Chashma. The allies have said they will finalise deals to expand China’s role in building critical infrastructure inside Pakistan and also give Beijing new trade passages to Central Asia.
The China Daily said that 13,000 Chinese workers are involved in 120 projects in Pakistan. Khan told the media that cooperation in ‘road and railway construction, finance, investment, new energy,’ is on the agenda.
China also needs Pakistan’s support to counter domestic terror threats in northwest Xinjiang from Islamist separatist groups on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.