Pakistan on Friday reaffirmed China as its best friend, and called on the two countries’ younger generation to carry on and promote the friendship to a new high.
“Pakistan and China have always been good friends. Pakistan takes China as its best friend, time-tested and all-weather,” said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in an exclusive interview with Xinhua in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, where he stayed during the four-day official visit.
Reviewing the historical bonds between the two countries, Gilani said they have witnessed centuries of friendly communications. The two sides also cooperated regionally and internationally in all fields and conducted frequent exchanges of high-level visits.
“One thing certain is that whatever the national, regional and international conditions are, Pakistan and China focus on and protect each other’s core interests. Pakistan always respects the sovereignty and core interest of China, and China does the same,” he said.
Accompanied by a delegation of Pakistani political parties, including the opposition, Gilani said all of them hoped to keep deepening and consolidating the Pakistan-China friendly relations, which is the common aspirations of the two nations.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of China-Pakistan ties as well as a year of friendship. Celebration of the anniversary is an important part of the prime minister’s agenda. He and China’s top political advisor Jia Qinglin attended a reception Thursday evening to mark the anniversary. He also addressed a business forum, met Chinese entrepreneurs and delivered a speech at Peking University.
“When I visited Peking University, I saw the students were taking a lot of interest in Pakistan studies and our national language, Urdu. Chinese language classes began very recently in a few of the oldest and finest universities in Pakistan. There should be more youth exchanges to improve people-to-people contact,” Gilani said.
There are about 6,000 Pakistani students studying in China. A Pakistan studies center has been established and an Urdu major was opened in Peking University.
“The younger generation should take the legacy of the elders and promote the Pakistan-China friendship to a new high. That’s their role,” Gilani said.
The prime minister also called on the two sides to further enhance trade and economic cooperation. He told Xinhua that Pakistan wanted to lift bilateral trade volume to 15 billion U.S. dollars in two to three years.
Gilani’s visit came two weeks after the U.S. forces killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. With regard to the war on terrorism, Gilani said the world should understand Pakistan’s sacrifice and contributions in the anti-terrorism war and help Pakistan enhance capacity to fight against terrorism.
He said Pakistan is at the front line of the war on terrorism and extremism.
“30,000 innocent children, women and others were murdered. 5,000 soldiers were murdered. Enforcement agencies such as the police were murdered. There is huge price,” he said of the great sacrifice Pakistan has suffered in the fight.
Gilani also thanked China for being the first country to express support for Pakistan after bin Laden’s death.
“That is friendship. We are grateful to the Chinese government, people and the leadership,” he said.
This is Gilani’s fourth China visit and the first official one since he took office. He met Chinese President Hu Jintao later on Friday afternoon and concluded the visit in the evening.