Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China's Wen Jiabao Bolsters Ties to Pakistan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China's Wen Jiabao Bolsters Ties to Pakistan

Article excerpt

China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao ended a three-day visit to Pakistan Sunday after inking a string of deals with an ally one Beijing diplomat referred to as 'our Israel.'

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao wrapped up a three-day visit to Pakistan on Sunday with a warmly received speech to Parliament that pledged closer strategic ties and lauded Pakistan's fight against militancy, underscoring Beijing's commitment to a geostrategic ally a Chinese diplomat recently dubbed "our Israel."

The Chinese delegation had already inked trade agreements between the private and public sectors of both countries worth some $30 billion. The trade deals are expected to bring up to $15 billion of desperately needed foreign investment over the next five years to this nation of 180 million struggling to cope with militancy and poverty. Last year, direct foreign investment to Pakistan stood at a 5-year-low of $2 billion.

Beyond aid and investment, however, Mr. Wen's strong words of support for its "all-weather" ally highlight a different approach to Pakistan to that taken by the West, which many Pakistanis believe has slighted Pakistan in favor of emerging economic powerhouse India.

"The timing of the trip is very important. Pakistan is facing difficulties in the region with the Obama review [on Afghanistan] excoriating Pakistan, and Western leaders trooping off to India without visiting Pakistan," says Mushahid Hussain, an opposition senator and chairman of the Pakistan China Institute think tank. "This trip instills confidence in the Pakistani leadership and the Pakistani nation. Even through these hard times, the world's second- largest economy is standing with us."

Visits to the region

Indeed, President Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain all visited India in recent months without going to Pakistan.

Wen's trip to Pakistan follows a visit to India where China and India pledged to double their trade to $100 billion. That trip did not offer any breakthroughs on border disputes and other geopolitical differences, however.

Decades of unresolved border disputes after a brief 1962 border war have soured relations between India and China.

Solid Pakistan-China ties

Contrast that with Pakistan, where China has maintained solid ties for six decades. In 1951, Pakistan was among the first countries to recognize the People's Republic of China founded two years earlier by the Communist party, which still governs China.

Today, China benefits from access to Pakistan's natural resources, which prompted several bilateral agreements from Wen's trip, including a $400 million loan for post-flood reconstruction, $10 million donation to the flood victims, the widening of the Karokoram highway to facilitate trade, and a pledge to assist Pakistan's energy sector. …

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