Pakistani officials have refused to comment on news reports that appeared on Tuesday which suggested that Islamabad was lobbying for a bilateral defence pact with China. A report in the English language daily Express Tribune said that while Islamabad was keen on such a pact, the idea had been met with caution in Beijing.
Officials told the paper that Pakistan made overtures to China earier this year when relations with the US started to sour. Pakistan wants to send a "strong signal", said on unnamed official, to the rest of the world that it was not alone. However, while China has been issuing statements supporting Pakistan, it is shy of a pact that may upset Washington or New Delhi, say observers.
The proposal was first made by Pakistan when Prime Minister Gilani was on a visit to China. When contacted, foreign office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said “I don’t want to comment on it.”
Meanwhile, China continued to show its public support to Pakistan. On Tuesday, it announced aid worth 8 million Yuan for Pakistan's law enforcement agencies. While the amount may be less than what Pakistan had expected, interior minister Rehman Malik told the media that the fact that china was supporting Pakistan's law enforcement efforts was an endorsement of the work the government was doing.
“We are true friends and we count on each other,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in comments broadcast on television networks after talks with visiting minister Meng Jianzhu on Tuesday.
“Thank you once again for (the) supportive statement in favour of Pakistan’s sovereignty and integrity,” the Pakistan PM added.
Analysts say that while Pakistan and China have deep ties and defence cooperation, there is no formal pact in place. "This may be because there is already so much cooperation that the need for such a pact, apart of its symbolic value, may not have been felt till now," said defence analyst Aisha Siddiqa, who earlier said that she would "not be surprised if such talks are underway."
A senior Pakistani government official called the report speculative but said Islamabad has such strong defence ties with China that no formal pact was needed.
During Meng’s visit, the two sides signed $250 million in economic and technical agreements.
(With agency inputs)