From Sajjad Hussain Islamabad, Feb 13: Pakistan is eagerly looking forward to welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping on his first official visit here to further strengthen the 'all-weather strategic partnership', Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said today.
While welcoming visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on his maiden official visit to Pakistan, Sharif said friendship with China is the cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy, emphasising that China has always been its sincere friend. Wang told Sharif that the purpose of his visit is to prepare for Xi's visit to Pakistan.
Though the date of Xi's visit has not been announced yet, media here say that the Chinese President may be the chief guest on the annual Pakistan Day parade on March 23.
Xi's visit to Pakistan is due since he had cancelled his tour to Islamabad in September last year over security concerns in the midst of political protests by cricketer- turned-politician Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and cleric Tahir ul-Qadri's Pakistan Awami Tehreek parties.
Sharif told Wang that Pakistan is eagerly looking forward to welcoming President Xi, adding that the government believes this important visit would further strengthen the all-weather strategic partnership between them. During Xi's proposed visit, both sides are expected to hold in-depth exchanges on all matters of mutual interest including economy, security and regional developments in the backdrop of changing international scenario.
Sharif said Xi's visit will bring them closer to achieving the dream of building a 'Pakistan-China community of shared destiny' as Pakistan attaches high importance to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Sharif expressed confidence that Xi's visit would help fast-tracking CPEC early harvest projects.
Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain yesterday conferred Hilal-e-Pakistan on Wang in recognition of his contribution towards promoting Pakistan-China friendship. Hilal-e-Pakistan (Crescent of Pakistan), stands second in hierarchy of civilian awards after the Nishan-E-Pakistan.
Wang conveyed greetings of Xi, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Sharif and said China appreciates the importance Pakistan attaches to the friendship with it and the contribution the Prime Minister has personally made to strengthen this relationship taking it to new heights.
Pakistan and China are 'iron brothers' and frequent bilateral exchanges have further strengthened this relationship, Wang said, adding Xi attaches great importance to the relationship with Pakistan and cherishes the trust and friendship between the two countries. Wang, who is on a two-day visit to Pakistan, said the menace of terrorism and extremism is the common enemy of both the nations and China would continue its cooperation with Pakistan in successfully meeting this challenge.