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The Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, waves as his Pakistani counterpart, Yusuf Raza Gilani, second from left, applauds after Wen's arrival at the joint sessions of the National Assembly and Senate yesterday in Islamabad. Reuters
The Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, waves as his Pakistani counterpart, Yusuf Raza Gilani, second from left, applauds after Wen's arrival at the joint sessions of the National Assembly and Senate yesterday in Islamabad. Reuters

China praises Pakistan's 'sacrifices' in fighting terrorism

The visiting Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, has said the world owes the nation a debt of gratitude for its efforts to fight terrorism.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan's efforts to fight terrorism should be recognised by the international community, China's premier said yesterday at the end of a five-day tour of India and Pakistan that has focused mostly on the growth of economic ties.

The Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, praised Pakistan during an address at a joint session of Pakistan's National Assembly. During the three-day visit to Pakistan, the two sides agreed to 35 pacts expected to bring up to $30 billion (Dh110bn) of investment to Pakistan over the next five years.

"Pakistan was at the front of the international fight against terrorism and made big sacrifices and important contributions, which were obvious to all," Mr Wen said. "The international community should affirm that and give great support as well as respect the path of development chosen by Pakistan."

Mr Wen tried to avoid mention of the chronic tensions in the region and instead stressed cooperation.

"During my visit to South Asia, I have sensed that peace, development and cooperation have become the aspiration of all peoples and the trend of the times," he said.

The territorial disputes India has with China and Pakistan, the closest of allies, have barely warranted a mention during Mr Wen's visit, his first to both countries in five years.

The disputed territory of Kashmir - portions of which are governed each of the three countries - was not publicly mentioned by the premier during his stay in Pakistan.

India fought a war over part of Kashmir in 1962. Kashmir has also sparked two wars and as many localised conflicts with Pakistan, since the two countries gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Mr Wen's only reference to Kashmir during two days of talks in India was to say, "Our policy has not changed".

In discussions with Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, Mr Wen acknowledged the need for "consultations" over China's decision in 2009 to issue distinctive "staple-on" visas for Indian citizens of Kashmir.

India reciprocated by withholding its usual criticism of China's occupation of Tibet and refusal to recognise Taiwanese independence.

Nationalist Indian commentators cautiously welcomed the joint official statement issued after the prime ministers' meeting.

"It is not as if India's policy towards the territorial integrity of China has changed, "But the point has been made, more or less in public, that respect for core national concerns must be mutual," noted The Hindu, an Indian right-wing newspaper, in an editorial on Friday.

The two premiers also agreed to establish annual "strategic economic" dialogue, to hold more frequent summits, and for their navies to work together to curb piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

China and India held joint naval exercises in the India Ocean in 2007 and 2008, but had discontinued them after Beijing last year refused a visa to an Indian army general stationed in Kashmir.

"India and China should lose no time in implementing this aspect of the joint statement, and use it as stepping stone for a full-fledged dialogue on the broader issue of maritime security and freedom of navigation," The Hindu urged.

Pakistan was in step with the two countries, refraining from any criticism of India. Yousaf Raza Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister, mentioned Kashmir only once during the visit.

During one-to-one talks with Mr Wen on Friday, the official Pakistani media quoted him as saying: "We desire the resolution of all outstanding issues with India, including Kashmir."

On Saturday, Mr Gilani said Pakistan's strategic friendship with China was "not directed at any country".

Similarly, details of a slew of economic agreements signed by the two allies on Friday and Saturday were scarce, and did not mention three new nuclear power plants that China had said earlier this year it would finance and build for Pakistan.

The two countries were apparently so concerned about Indian sensitivities that their assessment of the value of the agreements differed.

Pakistan's state media valued them at $15 billion, but Mr Wen told the Pakistani parliament yesterday they are worth $10 billion - the same value as deals signed in India.

The Chinese premier also sought symbolic balance. He said the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Islamabad would be celebrated in 2011 as the "year of Pak-China friendship".

India was allocated 2012, although there would be no diplomatic milestone to commemorate.

Nonetheless, China's support of Pakistani strategic and conventional armed forces was never far beneath the surface.

Mr Wen's presidential jet was greeted at the Indian border on Friday by four JF-17 "Thunder" jets, a new warplane designed by China that would be built exclusively in Pakistan.

Among the agreements that did receive specific mention in official press releases was one under which China would build and largely finance a new Pakistani organisation to develop and make military electronic systems.

The Pakistani signatory was the head of Nescom, which designs and supplies strategic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads to the military.



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