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China our ‘best friend’: Pakistan PM [Straits Times]

Pakistan declares China its best friend as China was quick,and the first to show its support of Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden by US Navy SEAL Team 6  in Operation Neptune’s Spear‘Both countries also see each other as an important counter-balance to India. To Pakistan, Beijing represents an uncritical friend, ready to provide aid, investment and military assistance.’

– – –

China our ‘best friend’: Pakistan PM
Declaration comes amid tense ties with the US
Source – Straits Times, published May 18, 2011

Source - Straits Times

BEIJING: In an apparent dig at the United States, Pakistan’s prime minister declared China his country’s best friend as he began an official visit to China yesterday.

China, noted Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani, was the first country to show its support of Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces in the northern Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

His statement came amid soured ties with Washington over the raid, which is expected to nudge Islamabad even closer to Beijing, an old ally.

China will likely welcome the move, as better ties with Pakistan and other countries in its neighbourhood will offer a bigger diplomatic footprint, better access to resources and a larger stable of allies to challenge US supremacy in the region.

Both countries also see each other as an important counter-balance to India. To Pakistan, Beijing represents an uncritical friend, ready to provide aid, investment and military assistance.

‘We appreciate that in all difficult circumstances, China stood with Pakistan. Therefore we call China a true friend and a time-tested and all-weather friend,’ Mr Gilani told China’s official Xinhua news agency ahead of the visit.

‘We are proud to have China as our best and most trusted friend, and China will always find Pakistan standing beside it at all times.’

Mr Gilani arrived in Shanghai yesterday to start a four-day visit that is expected see a series of cooperation agreements and discussions on fighting extremism. The Pakistani PM is scheduled to meet top Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

His comments also appeared to underscore tensions with Washington following the May 2 raid on Pakistan soil, which left the country’s civilian and military leaders angry and embarrassed.

Although Mr Gilani’s four-day visit was planned well in advance, it comes at a critical time for Pakistan’s relations with the US, and also contrasts strongly with a just-ended visit by US Senator John Kerry to Pakistan.

Although Mr Kerry had tried to mend US-Pakistan ties, overseeing an agreement between the two nations to work together on future actions against ‘high value targets’, he had also demanded that Pakistan make progress against terrorism through ‘actions, not by words’.

With Osama’s presence in the country raising suspicions over Pakistani complicity in hiding the Al-Qaeda leader, Mr Kerry also gave an oblique warning that some quarters of the US Congress were talking of cutting back US aid to Pakistan.

By contrast, China has offered nothing but encouragement.

Yesterday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Jiang Yu stressed Beijing’s ‘unswerving’ support of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts.

‘Pakistan has made very important contributions in international counter-terrorism cooperation, as well as great sacrifices,’ she told reporters.

Beijing and Islamabad are old allies – Mr Gilani’s visit marks 60 years of diplomatic relations – and both sides have a long history of exchanges in areas of trade, arms sales and energy.

With ties with the US strained, and facing weak Western investment in its moribund economy and crippling power shortages, Pakistan now is looking for closer trade and energy ties with China.

Still, there are questions as to how much further China is willing to go in building up relations with Islamabad.

China also needs to keep its crucial but delicate relationship with Washington in balance, and would not want to be seen as exacerbating tensions between the US and Pakistan, said analysts.



Filed under: AFP, AP, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, India, Influence, International Relations, military, Pakistan, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Straits Times, Strategy

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