ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari said on Wednesday that friendship with China was the corner-stone of Pakistan’s foreign policy and hoped the new democratic government would continue promoting Sino-Pak ties.
“Regardless of political outlook, every government in Pakistan has reinforced the country’s relations with China,” the President said at a luncheon he hosted in honour of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad.
The luncheon was widely attended by the national political leadership on the invitation of President Zardari including Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Chief Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Chairman PPPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed of Awami Muslim league, Ch Shujaat Hussain of Pakistan Muslim League (Q), Shahi Syed of Awami National Party and senior leaders belonging to different parties.
Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, Chairman Senate Nayyar Bokhari, Services Chiefs, ministers of the caretaker setup, ambassadors and senior officials were also present during the event.
President Zardari said China had a special place in the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people.
He stressed “joining hands and combining strengths” to realize the shared aspiration for the common good of people of Pakistan and China.
He said Pakistan was aware of the rapidly changing environment and wished to be a full partner in cooperative efforts for regional economic development.
“We seek peace and stability in our region for a prosperous future for our children,” he said.
Zardari welcomed the Chinese Premier and said the people of Pakistan held him in high esteem and were happy to see him in their midst. He termed the visit of Premier Li another landmark in the growing bilateral relations.
“We also deeply appreciate China’s support for Pakistan’s economic development”, he said.
The President said he was personally committed to deepen this relationship and during his tenure, he tried to strengthen bilateral ties and paid nine visits to China.
He said during each visit, which was more fascinating than the previous one, he learnt a great deal more about China.
He said Pakistan was greatly impressed with China’s remarkable growth, its culture, history, and traditions.
“Our visionary leaders Chairman Mao Tse Tung, Premier Chou Enlai and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto laid the foundation of this strategic relationship. My late wife Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed nourished this friendship,” he said.
The President said the visit of Chinese Premier took place at a very significant moment in Pakistan’s history as the country held general elections a week ago.
He said for the first time in the country’s history, peaceful and democratic transition took place.
“It is a great achievement. I am very happy to be presiding over this peaceful transfer of power in our country,” he said and wished best to the new government.
He said China’s growing economic power had unleashed positive momentum to take economic cooperation to new heights. He mentioned that Pakistan’s geo-strategic location and its trade and economic potential offered great opportunities.
He said Chinese business community could take advantage of these opportunities to develop mutually beneficial partnerships.
“We need to improve connectivity and turn this region into a vibrant trade, energy and economic corridor. We should seize the moment,” he said.
The President said Gwadar project was part of the endeavor to improve connectivity and held great promise to create a regional economic and trade corridor.
Similarly, Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline are also important to improve economic and social conditions of this region, he said.
Zardari terming the twenty-first century as the century of Asia said Pakistan feels happy over the progress China had achieved.
“China’s progress offers great opportunities. We wish to take full advantage of these opportunities,” he said.
He expressed confidence that under the wise leadership of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, the Chinese people would add new chapters to their glorious history and attain the ‘Chinese dream’.
The President said both China and Pakistan had stood together in upholding the principles of justice, fairness, equity and adherence to UN Charter.
He said on a wide range of global issues, Pakistan and China had a commonality of views.
“China’s principle of non-interference in internal affairs and resolving issues through dialogue and peaceful means has helped promote regional and international stability,” he said.
He said China’s upholding of the cause of developing countries was reassuring.
“We are confident that China will continue to play a constructive role in promoting global peace and development.”
Zardari said Pakistan was willing to stand with China and work together for a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous world.