ISLAMABAD: Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang was awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan by President Asif Ali Zardari on his arrival in Islamabad for a two-day trip, reported Express News on Wednesday.
It is Keqiang’s first visit to Pakistan since taking office in March.
The award has been given to other foreign diplomats in the past such as the Prime Minister of Turkey in 2010 and the president of China then, Hu Jintao in 2006.
The JF-17s — a symbol of deep Sino-Pakistan friendship – guided the special Air China Boeing 747 aircraft of the Chinese dignitary to the Nur Khan Air Base.
President Asif Ali Zardari, caretaker prime minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, chief of naval staff, chief of air staff and other cabinet members were present at the airport to welcome the Chinese PM.
The Chinese PM was given a guard of honour on his arrival.
Nawaz Sharif joined the other leaders at the President’s house in Islamabad, where President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif met.
China offers help to end Pakistan’s energy crisis
In an interview with Pakistani media, Li said there was still “great potential” for the relationship. Bilateral trade last year rose above $12 billion for the first time and both sides are aiming to reach $15 billion in the next two or three years.
“Our two sides should focus on carrying out priority projects in connectivity, energy development and power generation and promoting the building of a China-Pakistan economic corridor,” Li said.
The power shortages have sparked violent protests and crippled key industries, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs in Pakistan.
There are several joint energy and infrastructure projects under way in Pakistan and China has taken over operation of the strategically important Gwadar port.
When complete, the port, which is close to the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil shipping lane, is seen opening up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf, across Pakistan to western China, and could be used by the Chinese Navy, upsetting India.
The visit is a crucial as the two countries plan to discuss trade and investment opportunities. Trade between China and Pakistan hit a 12-month figure of $12 billion for the first time last year, according to Islamabad, up 18 percent on the previous year, and the two sides are committed to raising this to $15 billion in the next two to three years.
Li, on his first overseas tour as premier, will hold talks with President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister on Wednesday before meeting Sharif on Thursday.
Many important agreements and MoUs in the fields of economy, science and technology, space & upper atmosphere communication and energy will be signed during Li’s visit. “About a dozen agreements are likely to be signed during the visit,” a foreign office official said.
Pakistan has already given China a contract to develop and operate the Gwadar Port, and both countries don’t seem to want to stop there, and will work on deepening their economic and trade ties.
Mobile service resumes
For security reasons, National Crisis Management Cell directed the PTA to suspend mobile services in Islamabad and Rawalpindi till 3pm. However, mobile services have reportedly resumed in different parts of the city and is expected to be functional before the scheduled time.