Relationship with Pakistan is on China's top priority list, Beijing said on Tuesday, as it announced newly appointed Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain will head for China next week for his first official visit to the country after taking over office last year.
Hussain's upcoming visit was described by the Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday as a reaffirmation of the "all-weather friendship" between the two countries.
New Delhi will be closely watching as Hussain meets President Xi Jinping, who will host a welcome ceremony for him besides having one-on-one talks.
During his four-day visit beginning February 18, Hussain will also hold talks with Premier Li Keqiang and Zhang Dejiang, member of the powerful Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China's politburo.
China's tight alliance with Pakistan has always been a worry for India, especially with the former heavily investing in the development of the latter's nuclear capabilities besides infrastructure in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as well as the rest of the country. Indian diplomats are known to raise China's role in PoK as interference in disputed territory.
On Tuesday, the foreign ministry left no doubt about Beijing and Islamabad's bonhomie.
"The two sides will issue a joint statement to show our commitment to bilateral all-weather friendship and practical cooperation (between the two countries). I would like to say Pakistan is (China's) all-weather strategic partner for cooperation," Hua Chunying, foreign ministry spokesperson, said on Tuesday, while announcing Hussain's visit at the regular press briefing.
Describing the bilateral relationship as strong as "iron", Hua said China was very satisfied with the "current state of relationship with Pakistan".
"We have every confidence in the bright prospects of bilateral relations and cooperation. China gives top priority to developing relations with Pakistan. It is very important on China's diplomatic agenda. The visit will deepen win-win cooperation in various fields and (make way for) new progress in growth of bilateral relationship," Hua said.