ISLAMABAD // China's premier began a two-day visit to Pakistan yesterday by praising the relationship between the two Asian powers.
Premier Li Keqiang said "the tree of China-Pakistan friendship" was planted decades ago, nurtured by successive leaders and "is now exuberant with abundant fruits".
Both sides are typically effusive in describing their alliance, underlying the mutual benefits to each side. China provides Pakistan with aid and foreign investment, while Islamabad offers Beijing important diplomatic backing in the face of Muslim-majority nations who might otherwise criticise China's handling of its minority Muslim Uighur population.
Pakistan has viewed China as an important counterweight to the United States, which provides valuable aid but often pressures Islamabad to do more to crack down on militants. Pakistan and China have also been close because of their mutual distrust of India, which borders both countries.
Mr Li arrived in Islamabad on the heels of a visit to Pakistan's rival India, his first trip abroad since becoming premier in March. Mr Li and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to downplay a recent border dispute and stressed the aim of forging deeper cooperation. They expressed hope they could increase trade from US$61.5 billion (Dh225.9bn) last year to $100bn by 2015.
"Friendship with China is a cornerstone of our foreign policy," Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said in a speech yesterday before a lunch hosted in Li's honour.