Pakistan PM Sharif visits China

July 4, 2013 at 7:31 AM
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BEIJING, July 4 (UPI) -- Pakistan's newly-chosen prime minister arrived in China for a visit China's official media said testifies to the two sides' high level of "special friendship."

Nawaz Sharif, who became Pakistan's prime minister for the third time after his party won the May elections, will be in China for six days to further strengthen his country's ties with its close ally. The visit comes just a month after his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang visited Islamabad.

In a commentary ahead of the visit, China's official Xinhua News Agency said: "The timing and the arrangements once again testify to the high level of mutual trust and special friendship between the two neighbors. However, one should not fail to notice a new trend of the 'all-weather strategic partnership' between China and Pakistan."

Xinhua said high on Sharif's agenda would be talks on an economic corridor connecting Kashgar in China's far west Xinjiang-Uighur regions and to the southwestern Pakistani port of Gwadar.

Xinjiang-Uighur, an ethnically tense region, was in the news last week when the latest round of violence between the Muslim Uighurs and Chinese authorities left 35 people dead.

The Gwadar port is a strategic Arabian Sea deep water facility. There have been reports that Pakistan may invite China to set up a naval facility. China helped build Gwadar.

"The project, hopeful to become another highlight of the bilateral ties, symbolizes that both countries have shifted their focus to economic and practical cooperation," Xinhua said. "The recent high-level visits would inject fresh impetus into the trend of increasing bilateral cooperation in economic sectors, besides that in the realms of politics and military."

Pakistan's News International newspaper said Sharif, during his China visit, will be looking at high-impact Chinese infrastructure projects to resolve his country's economic malaise and the energy crisis. Sharif is due to meet with China's top leaders as well as financial and corporate leaders, and visit major industrial centers and special economic zones, the report said.

Shabaz Sharif, brother of the prime minister and the chief minister of Punjab province who is traveling with Nawaz, told Pakistan's Express Tribune Pakistan is fighting terrorism as a front-line state. He said up to 25 agreements will be signed between Beijing and his provincial government.

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