PM Nawaz gets warm welcome on arrival in China
04 July, 2013
Beijing: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif arrived here on Thursday amid expectations on both sides that his five-day official visit would further strengthen the close Pakistan-China strategic partnership and bilateral economic links.
The prime minister, who chose China for his first foreign tour after assuming office last month, is accompanied by a high-level delegation including the chief ministers of Punjab and Balochistan provinces besides the minister for water and power and others.
During his previous two terms as Pakistan's chief executive, Mr. Sharif had made building relations with China a central foreign policy aim, a policy he has taken up with renewed vigour after his his historic re-election.
A high-level delegation is accompanying him on the visit taking place at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who visited Pakistan in May after its general election and met Mr. Sharif, congratulating him on the victory of his party.
The 11-member delegation includes federal ministers and the Balochistan chief minister. Some members of his entourage, among them Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, flew from Lahore to China and joined the delegation in Beijing.
To prepare for the visit and to ensure follow-up on discussions with Premier Li Keqiang in Islamabad, a task force led by Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning and Development, visited China in June.
A number of proposals and initiatives for enhancing existing cooperation between the two countries were discussed during the minister's interaction with the Chinese authorities, and officials said these would be given concrete shape during the prime minister's visit.
Besides formal talks with the Chinese leadership, Prime Minister Sharif's engagements include meetings with leaders of the Chinese financial and corporate sector, visits to major industrial centers and Special Economic Zones.
The visit comes at a time when Pakistan is confronting serious challenges, including a crippling energy crisis and economic woes inherited by the new government from the previous rulers, besides the long-running menace of terrorism.
According to officials, the focus of the visit will be on expanding economic and trade ties.The two sides are expected to finalize a comprehensive strategy to speed up infra, structure development in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan where China has been entrusted with the development and operation of the deep sea Gwadar port project.
They are also expected to firm up a plan to connect Gwadar with the rest of the country and China through road and rail links extending to Kashghar.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told a group of Pakistani journalists that "this visit demonstrates the importance we attach to our relations with China. It is vital and important for us to seek continued Chinese help in rail, road, energy and other infrastructure besides the all important strategic ties."
The chief minister said, "we will make every effort to get the maximum from our Chinese brothers in the field of energy, diversification of energy resources and infrastructure building." Mr. Sharif's wide-ranging talks with the Chinese leadership will cover the regional situation, especially Afghanistan, against the backdrop of the planned Nato forces' exit by the end of 2014 and a yet-to-take off peace and reconciliation process after the opening of the Doha office by the Taliban.
Pakistan, which still shelters millions of Afghan refugees, and China have common concerns for peace and stability in Afghanistan, and towards that end Islamabad continues to play its role to promote a reconciliation process.
Close, cordial, cooperative and friendly ties between Pakistan and China are based on shared principles and mutual interests entailing cooperation in diverse fields, a Pakistani diplomat here noted.
Economic cooperation between Pakistan and China has expanded significantly in recent years.The two countries have bilateral economic cooperation in the form of the Joint Economic Commission, Economic Cooperation Group, Joint Energy Working Group and a Joint Investment Company, besides several other mechanisms.
A Free Trade Agreement is operational since 2008, covering trade in goods, investment and services.The trade volume between the two countries last year crossed the figure of US$12 billion with Pakistan exports increasing by 48%.
More than 120 Chinese companies are engaged in Pakistan and Chinese investment touched the figure of US$ 2 billion in 2012.A difficult task for Mr Sharif will be to convince people that this trip and the MOUs the countries signed will not be wasted as happened in the last ten years; out of the 400 MOUs signed, only 40, or ten percent of them, have materialized.
APP adds: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was accorded a warm welcome when he arrived at the Beijing International airport here on Wednesday. At the airport, two children attired in traditional dress presented bouquets to the prime minister and the first lady Begum Kulsoom Nawaz as they came out of the aircraft.
Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhai Jun welcomed the prime minister and his entourage. Pakistan's Ambassador to China Masood Khalid and senior diplomats of the Pakistan Embassy and officials from the Chinese government were present on the occasion. A smartly dressed contingent of the three services of People's Liberation Army presented salute to the prime minister.
The prime minister was accompanied by First Lady Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatimi and Chief Minister Balochistan Abdul Malik. The prime minister is undertaking a five-day visit at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Keqiaang. He was seen off at the Nur Khan Airbase by senior civil and military officials.
The significant feature of the prime minister's visit is that, both the prime ministers will hold a meeting in the span of less than two months that illustrates the close ties between the leadership of the two countries.
Premier Li during his visit to Islamabad in May had invited Nawaz Sharif and the later chose China for his first overseas visit.Earlier, Chief Minister Punjab Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif also arrived here to join the prime minister's delegation.The prime minister is leading a small delegation.
Our correspondent adds: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will sign very important MoUs and hold meetings with the Chinese leadership about Gwadar and energy issues. The prime minister will hold talks with the Chinese leadership on trade corridor and economic and strategic cooperation. He will be staying at the Diaoyutai State Guest House.
The prime minister will meet President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinpang, which will be followed by a dinner at the Diaoyutai State Guest House.
On Friday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will leave for the Great Hall of the People where he will hold official talks with Premier Li Keqiang, which will followed by an agreement-signing ceremony and lunch by the Chinese premier. He will also have a meeting with Chairman National People's Congress (NPC) Zhang Dejiang at the Great Hall of the People. He will also meet with EXIM Bank Chairman, Li Rougu.
PM Nawaz Sharif will have meetings with the corporate leaders. Later, he will have media interaction with CCTV, Xinhua, CRI and China Daily.
On Saturday, the prime minister will depart for Shanghai by a bullet train and Chinese businessmen will join him. He will have a meeting with business leaders on board the bullet train. China Gezhouba Group Company Limited, representatives of China State Construction Engineering Corporation and China Machinery Engineering Corporation will join this meeting. He will also have a meeting with the Pakistan-China Energy Forum.
On Sunday, Premier Nawaz Sharif will depart Shanghai for Guangzhou by a special aircraft and visit China Southern Power Group. Later, he will have a meeting with the governor of Guangzhou, which will be followed by a dinner with governor. On Monday, the prime minister will leave Guangzhou for Islamabad.