ISLAMABAD: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao vowed on Sunday to boost strategic cooperation with Pakistan and taking them to new levels as he wrapped up a three-day visit to Islamabad that concluded deals worth around 35 billion dollars.
“It is our collective objective to strengthen strategic ties between our two countries,” he told a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament before leaving to return to China on Sunday afternoon. The Chinese premier told cheering lawmakers that his country stood like a rock behind Pakistan at all times.
Wen said Beijing recognised Islamabad’s sacrifices in the global war against terror more than any other country.
The world should also realise Pakistan’s sincerity to eradicate al Qaeda from its lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, Wen said in a ‘veiled taunt’ countering US scepticism.
“Pakistan has paid a heavy price in combating terrorism. The fight against terror should not be linked with any religion or ethnic group and there should be no double standards,” Wen said as MPs burst into applause.
“The international community should affirm that and give great support as well as respect the path of development chosen by Pakistan,” he added.
This was the first time a Chinese leader publicly urged the western countries not to doubt Pakistan’s willingness to take war against terrorism to its logical end.
The remarks come just days after US President Barack Obama in his yearly review of policy for the region mentioned ‘fragile gains’ against al Qaeda but pushed Pakistan to ‘do more’.
Separately during the day, a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the visit said that both countries had decided to strengthen and consolidate their bilateral relations, especially in defence and energy sectors.
Upon his arrival in the parliament Wen was given a standing ovation not only by parliamentarians but also by top military and political leadership of the country present in guest galleries.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Khalid Shamim Wynne and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani were among them.
Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza invited Wen for the address, as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Sher Muhammad Baloch raised the Pak-China Friendship slogan that responded by a resounding ‘Zindabad’ by everyone inside the assembly.
‘Brothers, we are’
In his speech, Jiabao called Pakistanis and Chinese ‘brothers’ – a gesture that is thought to carry a lot of weight in diplomacy.
The premier said ties between the neighbours were based on emotions instead of mere economic needs.
“To cement and advance the all-weather partnership of cooperation between China and Pakistan is our common strategic choice,” Wen said.
Wen said China believed that Pakistan will benefit from bilateral trade deals and increase its exports to China.
He also pointed towards plans by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, one of the largest lenders in the world, to open branches in Pakistan, and said China might explore a currency swap deal with Pakistan.
“Greater financial cooperation between China and Pakistan will provide a strong support for in-depth and sustained growth of our economic and trade ties,” Wen said.
The Chinese leader said that the strategic partnership between China and Pakistan was “in conformity with the national interests of the peoples of the two countries. It would help promote peace, stability and prosperity of the region”.
2011, a year of friendship with China: PM
Following the first-ever address by a Chinese premier to the National Assembly and Senate, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said that Sino-Pak friendship was “taller than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey”.
Gilani said that today (Sunday) was an especially auspicious day for the parliament. He added that all political parties, all parliamentarians, and the whole nation stands united in determination to take the friendship and partnership with China to even greater heights. He said the Parliament of Pakistan will celebrate 2011 as the friendship year with China.
Leader of opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in response to Wen Jiabao’s address said: “Your each word is in our memory, in our heart and it would be in future legacy.”
Terming it a historic occasion, Chaudhry Nisar said to the Chinese premier, “You are a selfless, time tested friend, who had helped Pakistan at every crisis. I would like to stand up here before you and this august house and salute you, salute the Chinese leadership, salute the people of China and your great country for great friendship that you have with us.”
Similarly, PPP Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab, Veteran politician Asfandayar Wali Khan and Adviser to the Prime Minister Asma Alamgir agreed that Jiabao’s address to parliament was historical and one which reflected the true spirit of strong bonds between the two countries.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said: “The speech of the Chinese premier to the joint session of parliament was the reflection of the emotion of both the nations.” (Agencies)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2010.