HONORED PREMIER: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shakes hands with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari after receiving Pakistan's highest civil award Nishan-e-Pakistan in Islamabad on May 22 (JU PENG)
A time-tested friendship still has room for improvement, as demonstrated by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's recent trip to Pakistan. China and Pakistan have agreed to promote trade and economic cooperation to improve their friendship. They believe win-win cooperation built upon traditional friendship will not only benefit their "iron brotherhood," but also make great advancements in terms of regional development and security.
Li's Pakistan trip illustrates to the world that China and Pakistan share a solid friendship that will not be influenced by a change of the government. Also, the two sides have agreed to enhance their strategic cooperative partnership to adapt to changing situations.
Pakistan was the second stop of Li's first overseas trip as China's new head of government. And the Chinese premier was the first foreign leader to visit Pakistan in the wake of the country's general elections.
"The trip illustrates that the China-Pakistan relationship is steady and will not be influenced by the transition period now underway between two successive Pakistani prime ministers," Li Qingyan, a researcher on South Asian studies with the China Institute of International Studies, said to Beijing Review.
After establishing diplomatic relations in 1951, the two countries have forged a long-standing friendship, described by some as "higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans." Both have expressed confidence in preserving and deepening this friendship.
"The two countries are partners that can trust and rely on each other," said Premier Li, when meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on May 22. Despite complex and volatile regional and global circumstances, the two countries have already maintained sound strategic communication and coordination, Li noted.
"I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate to the Pakistani people and the international community that the new Chinese Government will continue to pursue a policy of friendship with Pakistan. We will work together with Pakistan to uphold and grow China-Pakistan relations and take more pragmatic steps to bring more benefits to our two peoples. China and Pakistan should remain good, trustworthy partners and good, sincere and reliable brothers," he stressed.
For his part, Zardari said the Chinese premier's visit, which came at a time when Pakistan is undergoing historic changes, set another important milestone in bilateral ties and would further push forward the relationship between the two countries. "China is a true friend and reliable partner of Pakistan," said Zardari.
The two sides also released a joint statement on deepening China-Pakistan comprehensive strategic cooperation, which mapped out a grand blueprint for the pursuit of common development by both countries. "We are confident that this will instill a new impetus into China-Pakistan cooperation and enable China-Pakistan relations to make greater strides forward from a new starting point," said Premier Li on May 22.
"The China-Pakistan friendship will undoubtedly be deepened and improved to a new phase," predicted Li Qingyan. She pointed out that both China and Pakistan have new governments in 2013, allowing for a good opportunity to boost bilateral relations. Nawaz Sharif, who is set to begin his third term as Pakistani prime minister, has shown persistent friendliness toward China.
Chinese observers believe that boosting the China-Pakistan relationship holds significance for both countries as well as the greater region.
Wang Xu, a researcher on Pakistani studies with Peking University, said that terrorism has posed a major threat to all countries in the region, including China and Pakistan. In the past years, the two natoins have been strengthening military cooperation within bilateral and multilateral frameworks. An improved bilateral relationship will stabilize the regional situation in South Asia, Wang said.
Li Qingyan pointed out that Premier Li's trip to Pakistan showed the close attention paid by China to its neighborhood including South Asia. During the visit, the Chinese premier suggested the two sides begin formulating a long-term plan for the China-Pakistan economic corridor project and gradually push forward its construction.
"Such a corridor will give a boost to regional development," said Li Qingyan.