Apr 9 - 15, 20

The three day official visit to China by the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani to attend the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) has been the most timely and fruitful, as it provided an opportunity for an extensive discussions and indepth exchange of views specially with the leadership of China and Iran on subjects of mutual interest adding more depth to their friendly relations.

Boao, a small city in south China, was centre of world attention last week as the conference being held there was an Asian equivalent of World Economic Forum at Davos and its theme was "Asia in the changing world: towards a healthy and sustainable development".

Minister Gilani held more than a dozen meetings on the sidelines of the Boao Forum including significant interactions with the Chinese deputy premier and Iranian vice president. These interactions have provided Islamabad much needed support in the face of arm-twisting from across the Atlantic and confidence to deal with the upcoming issues. The three countries seem to have come closer and agreed to have more interactive and result-oriented communication with each other.

According to observers, anew landmark relationship has been developed and meaningful course indicated in the process.

Gilani had two in-depth meetings with the Chinese executive vice-premier, Li Keqiang, who is viewed as the future prime minister and is currently looking after China's economy, demonstrated extraordinary gesture of warmth and goodwill for Pakistan in these meetings and assured the Pakistani leadership that the relations between the two countries would proceed ahead to scale new heights. The official sources said that Pakistan and China have agreed to stand with each other in all circumstances and vowed to uphold their sovereignty and territorial integrity at all cost.

"China's friend is our friend and China's enemy is our enemy," Prime Minister Gilani assured the Chinese leader.

On his part, Li reciprocated and reiterated long-sanding Beijing's stance that no matter what changes take place at international level, his country would be at the back of Pakistan to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity. These statements by the two leaders came after their detailed discussions on bilateral relations and international situation particularly in the context of regional dimensions and reflect further deepening of already cordial and warm relations.

At a time when Pakistan is in the midst of its policy of re-engagement with the U.S. and NATO forces, the message from Boao is loud and clear that Islamabad is not alone and cannot be dictated or pressurized.

Prime Minister Gilani, during this visit, also made a strong pitch for China to boost its support to help Pakistan to overcome its energy crises specially in the field of hydropower and nuclear energy projects. He asked vice-premier Le for setting up an umbrella "Pakistan- China Power Cooperation", which would include specialists and entities in a range of energy fields.

The Prime Minister singled out energy cooperation between the two countries as being of particular importance for Pakistan. He said Pakistan needed Chinese help and cooperation in the full gamut of energy from hydropower and coal to nuclear and welcomed the recently set up "joint energy working group" as an encouraging landmark.

Gilani also met the Iranian Vice President, Mohammad Javed Mohammadizadeh, twice on the sidelines of Boao Forum and had detailed exchange of views on matters of mutual interest. He expressed strong desire for boosting relations with Iran especially in energy and trade. He said that realization of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project will open new vistas of cooperation between the two countries. He said Pakistan attaches great importance to its relations with Iran that are deep-rooted in the realms of history, culture, and brotherhood. He thanked the Iranian government for extending a helping hand to Pakistan to overcome its present energy crises.

According to the sources, Prime Minister Gilani and Iranian Vice President expressed their deep desire for speedy completion of the gas line project and also decided to help each other in exploring new avenues of alternative financial support. The Iranian leader said that his country had completed its part of the work on the gas pipeline and urged Pakistan to complete its side of work in which Iran can also help it if so asked. The United States and European Union are pressurizing Pakistan to drop the project because of what they call Iran's nuclear ambitions. The West has imposed sanctions on Iran and multinational companies doing business with Iran. This was the main reason that earlier a consortium led by a Chinese commercial bank which had agreed to complete the work on Pakistani side backed out from the deal.

During a meeting with the Prime Minister Gilani at Boao, the Chinese leaders agreed to provide the financial resources to Pakistan to complete the project. It is, indeed, a positive development.