Premier Li Keqiang offers to help end Pakistan's energy crisis
Li Keqiang urges ally to prioritise their collaboration in power generation projects and boosting bilateral trade to US$15 billion
Agencies in Islamabad
China and Pakistan should make co-operation on power generation a priority, Premier Li Keqiang said, as Islamabad seeks to end an energy crisis that causes power cuts of up to 20 hours a day and brings the economy to a near standstill.
Li arrived in Islamabad yesterday on the second leg of his first official trip since taking office in March, after a visit to India.
Security was tight, with mobile phone networks across the city shut down.
Li held talks with President Asif Ali Zardari and officials signed a series of memorandums of understanding on economic, science, technology and energy issues.
Prime minister-elect Nawaz Sharif, set to meet Li today, will doubtless be hoping the visit leads to closer trade ties after his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party triumphed in the May 11 general election on a promise to revitalise the economy.
Li said there was still "great potential" for the relationship. Bilateral trade last year topped US$12 billion for the first time and both sides aim to reach US$15 billion in the next two or three years.
"Our two sides should focus on carrying out priority projects in connectivity, energy development and power generation and promoting the building of a China-Pakistan economic corridor," Li said.
The power shortages have sparked violent protests and crippled key industries, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs in a country already beset by high unemployment, a failing economy, widespread poverty, sectarian bloodshed and a Taliban insurgency.
There are several joint energy and infrastructure projects under way in Pakistan and China has taken over operation of the strategically important Gwadar port.
When complete, the port, which is close to the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil shipping lane, is expected to open up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf, across Pakistan to western China, and could be used by the PLA navy, upsetting India.
Li also stressed China's support of Pakistan's efforts to "uphold independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity" in a possible reference to India and to America's use of drone strikes against militants in Pakistan.
Li also linked growth in China's restive west with that in Pakistan. "Both sides are of the view that by connecting China's development and Pakistan's development, we can create a joint economic corridor linking the central and western parts of China and Pakistan," he said.
Reuters, Agence France-Presse