China's new Premier Li Qiang on Thursday held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shehbaz Sharif and voiced support for cash-strapped Pakistan in maintaining financial stability, and hoped that Islamabad will continue to create a favourable environment to guarantee the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel working in the country.
Noting China and Pakistan are good neighbours, friends, partners and brothers, Li said that both sides should maintain high-level exchanges and promote greater progress in bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on the telephonic talks.
Li, who assumed charge as Premier in March, also said, "China supports Pakistan in maintaining financial stability, and hopes that Pakistan will continue to create a favourable environment so as to guarantee the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel in Pakistan."
He was referring to frequent terror attacks on Chinese personnel and projects in Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
On this, Sharif added that "Pakistan will make every effort to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Pakistan."
Sharif, who called both the countries "iron-clad brothers", also thanked China for its firm support and selfless help to the cash-starved country in safeguarding national independence and sovereignty and promoting national development.
Besides political and military support, China has supported Pakistan financially, rolling over earlier loans and approving new financial packages.
Li also expressed that the two sides should support each other in the multilateral field, uphold international fairness and justice, safeguard the common interests of both countries and other developing countries, defend regional peace and security, and promote common development, the state-run agency reported.
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Sharif congratulated Li and reiterated Pakistan's "unstinting" support to Beijing's one-China policy, as well as its stance on Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea, an official statement said in Islamabad.
"As all-weather partners and close friends, Pakistan appreciated China's peaceful development as a positive factor of international peace and stability, and confident that China will continue to achieve milestones on its journey towards modernisation and rejuvenation," the Pakistani prime minister said.
The Pakistani premier also thanked his Chinese counterpart for China's "principled position" on the disputed Jammu and Kashmir issue.
Li, for his part, "praised Pakistan's support for China and reaffirmed his country's continuing support to Pakistan's national development, sovereignty, and territorial integrity".
"China would continue to stand with Pakistan at all times," said the Chinese premier.
On China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Li said that both sides should work together to improve the quality of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) cooperation, making it a high-quality demonstration project of the Belt and Road cooperation.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposal of BRI and the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPEC.
A pet initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping, BRI is a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
Beijing sees self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and criticises high-level meetings between Taiwanese and foreign leaders.
China recently held military exercises around Taiwan after its president, Tsai Ing-wen, met in Los Angeles US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Recalling Prime Minister Sharif's visit to China in November last year, and wide-ranging conversations with President Xi and the Chinese leadership, the two leaders took stock of bilateral cooperation in key areas, including China Pakistan Economic Corridor, The Nation newspaper reported.
Pakistan is under severe stress due to low foreign reserves and high inflation. Interestingly, the telephone conversation between the premiers took place as Pakistan Army chief General Asim Munir is currently on his maiden visit to China where experts termed the trip as crucial against the backdrop of key geo-strategic developments in the region and beyond.
The visit to China by the army chief is being closely followed by Western diplomats in Islamabad since it will determine Pakistan's future strategy in view of the growing tussle between Beijing and Washington.
Pakistan has tried to maintain a balance in its ties with the big powers but many observers believe that eventually, the country may have to take sides.
Haroon Sharif, former chairman of the Board of Investment, who worked in the past with the Chinese, is of the view that with USD 30 billion bilateral debt and future stakes, Pakistan cannot turn its back on China.
The US, Sharif said, has realised this after using the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme as leverage over Pakistan.
However, observers believe that China will not extend free dole-outs to Pakistan as it is concerned over certain issues, including the security of Chinese nationals and stuck-up money of the Chinese-run power projects in this country.
On top of it, China is worried about the growing political instability in Pakistan. The two sides also agreed to enhance their cooperation in all spheres to realise shared objectives of benefiting the peoples of their countries and contributing to regional peace, prosperity, and stability.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)