China and Pakistan, which have long viewed each other as "iron friends," upgraded their relations to all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation Monday, eyeing perpetual friendship from generation to generation.
The consensus was reached as visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who also agreed to constantly enrich the China-Pakistan community of shared destiny.
"China and Pakistan have always trusted, understood and supported each other, and are all-weather friends," said Xi, citing that the two countries helped evacuate each other's citizens from war-torn Yemen not long ago.
Xi arrived in Islamabad Monday for his first state visit to Pakistan, which is also the first stop of his first overseas visit this year.
"The Chinese side highly values its relationship with Pakistan, and has always placed the relationship on a priority position in its foreign policy agenda," Xi told Sharif during the talks.
Sharif said the Pakistani Government and people have long anticipated Xi's visit.
"The Pakistan-China friendship is the cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy, and the Pakistani people treasure the brotherly relationship with China," he said.
During the talks, the Chinese president proposed that the two countries encourage exchanges between governments, legislative bodies, political parties and armed forces.
China appreciates Pakistan's consistent support on issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and South China Sea, Xi said.
China will continue to staunchly support Pakistan for its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, he said.
Xi called on the two countries to strengthen security cooperation.
He stressed that China commends Pakistan's contribution to the international counter-terrorism efforts, and will continue to support Pakistan in implementing its counter-terrorism strategy in accordance with its national conditions and enhancing counter-terrorism capacity building.
The president suggested that two countries jointly hold events to celebrate the China-Pakistan Year of Friendly Exchanges in 2015, and make best use of such platforms as the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to enhance policy coordination and strategic collaboration on major international and regions issues.
China supports Pakistan in improving relations with neighboring countries and welcomes Pakistan to join the SCO as a full member, Xi said.
China values Pakistan's unique role on Afghanistan and stands ready to make joint efforts with Pakistan to push the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, he said.
Sharif said Pakistan is committed to the One China policy and supports China's positions on issues concerning Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and South China Sea.
Pakistan is willing to step up economic and trade engagement with China, and increase people-to-people and cultural exchanges. It appreciates China's constructive role in affairs in this region, he said.
Pakistan supports the China-proposed initiative of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and will also actively participate in the building of the China-proposed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Sharif said.
High on the agenda of Xi's two-day state visit include advancing the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking southwest Pakistan's deepwater Gwadar Port with northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The CPEC is located in where the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road meet.
"We need to form a '1+4' cooperation structure with the CPEC at the center and the Gwadar Port, transport infrastructure, energy and industrial cooperation being the four key areas to achieve a win-win result and common development," Xi said during the talks.
The two countries should make steady progress in developing the Gwadar Port and building the CPEC, thus bringing benefits to the people and setting an example for other major projects of interconnectivity in this region, he said.
"It has a significant meaning for a China-Pakistan energy cooperation project (of the Karot Hydropower Station in Pakistan) to be chosen as the first investment project of the Silk Road Fund since its establishment (in December)," Xi said.
The Chinese president called for well planning the industrial parks construction along the CPEC, and finalizing the free trade area talks between the two countries at an early date.
After the talks, the two leaders jointly met reporters, reaffirming the traditional friendship of the two countries and vowing to carry forward the relationship generations after generations.
Xi said that his visit is aimed at building a strategic framework for the China-Pakistan cooperation for the coming five to 10 years.
For his part, Sharif reiterated: "The Pakistan-China friendship is higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel."
The two leaders also planted a tree of friendship at the PM House.
In addition, they jointly unveiled cooperation projects of the China-Pakistan Small-sized Hydro Power Technology National Joint Research Center in Pakistan, and the Chinese Culture Center in Islamabad. They also attended a video connection event for a photovoltaic (PV) project.
A joint declaration was issued after the talks, in which the two countries set a target of lifting bilateral trade to $20 billion in three years, up from the current 16 billion dollars.
The two sides also pledged to make concerted efforts to resolutely crack down on the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a UN-listed terror group.
The two leaders also witnessed the signing of more than 50 cooperation deals covering transport infrastructure, energy, agriculture, trade, finance, health, local affairs, media, ocean sciences and education.
After Pakistan, Xi will fly to Indonesia to attend the Asian-African Summit and activities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference.
(Xinhua News Agency April 20, 2015)