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Pakistan ambassador calls Li's visit 'milestone'

Updated: 2013-05-21 21:43

BEIJING - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming visit to Pakistan will prove to be a milestone in the relationship between the two "old friends," Pakistan's Ambassador to China Masood Khalid said in an interview.

During his first overseas tour as the Chinese premier, Li's choice of Pakistan as one of his stops would "once again provide a great opportunity to renew the time-honored friendship between the two countries," Khalid said ahead of Li's visit on May 22-23.

"China and Pakistan are old friends, and their relationship has been consolidated and strengthened in the last 60-plus years. It's truly a multi-dimensional relationship, covering many areas," said Khalid, a senior Pakistani diplomat who worked in Malaysia and the Republic of Korea before being posted in Beijing earlier this year.

In terms of economic ties, Khalid said the Pakistani side expects two-way trade to surpass 15 billion U.S. dollars in two or three years.

"I am satisfied with the growth of bilateral trade between Pakistan and China. Last year, there was a 17-percent increase in our bilateral trade, and there is still vast potential to tap in this area," he said.

However, he noted that to realize the long-term growth of bilateral trade, both countries should make more efforts to educate the business communities on the facilities and incentives available for bilateral trade under the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed by the two countries in November 2006.

"There is also a need to promote participation in trade fairs, exhibitions and the exchange of visits between trade delegations," the ambassador added.

Aside from traditional areas of economic cooperation such as mining, construction and infrastructure development, the ambassador said he believes Chinese companies could also play a role in sectors like energy, agriculture and the IT industry, among others.

"We welcome more Chinese companies to come and take part in our development process... As I always say, the sky is the limit as far as economic cooperation is concerned," he said.

In the past 60 years, Pakistan and China have seen their friendship grow increasingly close, and the two countries have also found that their cultural link has grown ever stronger, Khalid noted.

More and more young Pakistanis are learning Chinese, he said. "At least four or five top Pakistani educational institutions have started classes in the Chinese language... And we have four Pakistani study centers in China, doing research on the history and current status of Pakistan-China relations and its future development."

"We are also promoting cooperation between the media and think tanks of the two countries. And there is a constant flow of exchanges between intellectuals, researchers and scholars, which has brought the two countries and two peoples closer."

To carry this all-weather friendship into the future, bringing the younger generations together is of great importance, the senior diplomat said.

According to Khalid, Pakistan has put a lot of emphasis on encouraging young people to learn Chinese over the past five or six years, and these efforts have yielded positive outcomes.

The program under which Pakistan and China exchange youth delegations has also promoted the affinity among youth on both sides, he added.

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