China, Pakistan sign 51 energy, infrastructure deals
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday applauded Pakistan's anti-terrorism efforts and vowed his nation would continue to stand by its neighbour as he wrapped up a two-day visit meant to boost bilateral ties and assure Islamabad of Beijing's support.
Xi arrived Monday to Islamabad, where he and Sharif oversaw their ministers and other officials signing 51 deals.
The Chinese leader brought with him investment projects worth US$45 billion in energy and infrastructure construction, Pakistani Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said. Up to US$37 billion would be spent on Pakistan's troubled electrical grid, Iqbal said.
Of the total investment, Iqbal said, US$28 billion projects were ready to be rolled out, while it will take three to five years for the rest of them to take start.
"We in China have a great admiration for the people of Pakistan," Xi told Pakistani lawmakers in a speech before parliament Tuesday, adding that the Chinese people will always stand together with "dependable" Pakistani friends.
Xi said the ties between the two countries were based on mutual trust and a friendship that was truly unique. The lawmakers gave the Chinese leader a standing ovation. Military leaders and foreign ambassadors also attended the event.
Xi pledged that China and Pakistan will always move forward together and the Chinese people will always stand together with the Pakistani people. He spoke in Chinese language, and an official translation into English was provided.
He said both countries shared common stakes in security and that Pakistan had contributed greatly to the security and stability of China's western border.
"This is something that we should never forget," he said.
In his own speech after Xi's, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to strengthen ties between the two countries.
"We will fight together to eliminate the menace of terrorism," he said.
China and Pakistan have long maintained close political and military relations, based partly on mutual antipathy towards neighbour India. However, stronger China-India ties have challenged that perception and Xi's visit seems intended to reassure Pakistan.
Xi postponed a visit to Islamabad last year due to anti-government protests in Pakistan and instead travelled to India. China is also eager to boost trade and investment with New Delhi, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Beijing in the coming weeks.
China is a leading arms supplier to Pakistan and has sought its help in combatting anti-Chinese Islamic separatists reportedly hiding in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. China also wants to enlist Pakistan's help in stabilising Afghanistan as United States and international troops wind down their presence there.
After their speeches in parliament Tuesday, Xi and Sharif left for the nearby presidential palace where Xi received Pakistan's top civilian award, the Nishan-e-Pakistan.
After the ceremony, Pakistani civilian and military leadership escorted Xi to an air force base where they saw him off as he and his wife waved goodbye before boarding an Air China plane. State-run Pakistani TV aired the departure live. Pakistani air force said its fighter jets escorted his plane out of country's airspace.