Ministerial-level talks between the United States and Pakistan this week come as the Asian nation marks the 70th anniversary of a resolution that declared the former dominion a republic. Hopes of a successful outcome to the meetings hinge on a combined effort to combat extremism and raise prosperity in Pakistan. In terms of investment and infrastructure, China's support gives many Pakistanis the most confidence. 'There are between 10,000 and 12,000 Chinese workers in Pakistan, and they're not in the major cities but out in the deserts and mountainous regions building power stations and railways,' says Dr Ahmad Balal, Pakistan's Consul General to Hong Kong. For Hong Kong, the consul general's confidence is reflected in two main spheres: the city's importance as an entrepot to China for Pakistan's exports, particularly cotton, and the social and spiritual guidance the community's leaders are providing, especially towards ethnic minority youngsters. Pakistan is the world's fourth-largest producer of cotton and the industry is the nation's largest employer. Last season saw a bumper crop of 12.7 million bales, according to the Pakistan Cotton Ginners' Association. If it is to meet higher production targets, Pakistan must create stability and combat power shortages and outages in many of its cities. This is where the solid relationship with Hong Kong and the mainland comes in, as investors based here are either already involved in projects in Pakistan or preparing to meet the need for energy supplies. Talks in the US and visits by President Barack Obama's special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, are aimed at strengthening this framework for stability and investment, leaving extremists with less scope to indoctrinate people previously denied opportunity. Locally, Balal says he is proud to see that Pakistani Muslims in Hong Kong are making great efforts to integrate while at the same time preserving their faith and embracing the Koran's message of peace. Balal estimates there are at least 50 people in Hong Kong (though others put the number much higher) who are able to lead the tarawih, the evening prayers held during Ramadan. Muslims must know the Koran by heart to do this and Balal is impressed that the Prophet Muhammad plays such a great part in the lives of so many people in Hong Kong. 'It's considered to be a great blessing for a Muslim family if their son or daughter memorises the holy book by heart. The Pakistan community is already teaching many of these students, who study from the age of five in Hong Kong,' the consul general says. 'Dozens of madrassas in Hong Kong are supported by the Chinese Muslim community - and Indian, Bangladeshi, British and Gulf states Muslims - but most support comes from the Pakistani community.' Balal says this leadership is committed to promoting peace and understanding with people of other religious faiths, with Jewish and Christian scholars having visited the Kowloon mosque. He says people who have not read the Koran would be amazed by such matters as 'the understanding of human rights and the conduct of armies long before the Geneva Convention ... and no coercion of other religions'. The consul general says groups such as the Pakistan Association of Hong Kong, the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong and the Pakistan Students Association deserve the utmost praise, particularly for their role in encouraging youngsters to turn their backs on gang culture and drugs. Shipping businessman Saleem Shahzada, president of the Pakistan Association and the Islamic Community Fund, made local history when he was elected the first Pakistani president of the Hong Kong Cricket Association. Hockey and cricket are seen as vital in nurturing respect among Pakistan youth, says Balal, with good role models leading the Hong Kong national teams. But he says the games should not be dominated by one nationality. 'The consulate is seriously concerned that hockey and cricket should come out of South Asian dominance and should be enjoyed in the Chinese community,' says Balal, who adds that forthcoming tournaments, including a women's competition, are being backed by the consulate not only to support the Pakistani community but to spread the cause of sport for all nationalities. The consulate also arranged for Pakistan's tennis team to play in the Davis Cup, 'giving the fans a great week of tennis' as the visitors defeated Hong Kong. With a combination of sport and faith inspiring Pakistan youth, Balal sees ties with China as laying the foundations for economic and diplomatic success. 'The post-97 bond strengthened because the People's Republic of China is one of the best friends that Pakistan has in the world,' he says. 'Pakistan is a lucky country as it counts India, Japan, the Gulf states, the US, the Commonwealth and the European Union among its friends. It's very proud of its friendship with China, which has played the role of a big brother in the relationship.' Balal says growing educational ties reflect this bond. 'Thousands of Pakistan students are doing doctorates and higher-level engineering and Mandarin [courses in China]. In any major city in Pakistan, you can get Pakistanis who are Mandarin teachers - we don't have to import any.'