Dawn/ann
Beijing 4 July
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met Chinese President Xi Jinping today during his first foreign visit since his May election, looking to secure infrastructure projects to tackle a chronic energy crisis and economic malaise.
Since his victory at the polls, Mr Sharif has sought to strengthen economic ties with close ally Beijing as he tries to tackle weak growth, inflation and power cuts of up to 20 hours a day.
His first meetings in the Chinese capital included appointments with leaders from state-owned heavyweights the China Investment Corporation sovereign wealth fund, China Development Bank and China Power Investment Corporation.
Mr Sharif also met Mr Xi at Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, China Central Television reported on its main evening news broadcast.
Mr Xi, calling Mr Sharif an old friend of China as well as a good friend, good brother and good partner, said strengthening strategic cooperation with Islamabad was a priority for China’s diplomacy with countries on its periphery, it reported.
The prime minister, meanwhile, thanked Xi for China’s help and support, saying he chose the country as his first overseas destination to consolidate and further develop friendship between the countries.
He said his country welcomes Chinese investment and will work to create a friendly environment for it. Mr Sharif was due to hold talks with Premier Li Keqiang on Friday, according to a schedule provided by Pakistani officials.
Over the weekend he will attend a China-Pakistan Energy Forum in Shanghai and meet a power company in the southern city of Guangzhou, before flying home on Monday.
Pakistan, where Sharif won praise for high-impact infrastructure projects such as a motorway during his two previous tenures in office, has opened its arms to Chinese investment.
China is concerned that the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement ~ which seeks an independent homeland for Muslim Uighurs in China’s western Xinjiang region ~ is training “terrorists” in Pakistan.