Chinese premier given extraordinary welcome in Pakistan

By Awais Saleem, IANS
Friday, December 17, 2010

ISLAMABAD - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reached Islamabad from New Delhi Friday as Pakistan Air Force aircraft escorted his official plane to Chaklala airbase where his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani welcomed him.

As soon as the visiting dignitary touched down on the Pakistani soil, he was given a 21-gun salute and a guard of honour by a contingent of armed forces. Gilani introduced Wen Jiabao to the members of his cabinet.

Former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri said that “such extraordinary welcome is reserved only for close friends of Pakistan like China or Saudi Arabia”.

“I can’t remember any other instance when such protocol is offered to any visiting dignitary or head of state,” he said, adding that “Pak-China friendship has always stood the test of time irrespective of any regime change”, Dunya TV reported.

Wen’s visit is being watched with considerable interest because the country is considered a close ally of Pakistan. He will be visiting the PM House later in the day where both leaders will hold a one-on-one meeting and sign bilateral agreements.

The fact that Wen was in India on the first leg of his visit and signed trade deals worth over $16 billion has heightened anticipation over what he has in store for Pakistan - a country which is going through the worst financial crunch in history owing to devastation caused by floods and very precarious security situation.

Gilani will also host a dinner for Wen Friday evening that is expected to be attended by the ruling elite and the opposition alike to convey a message of unity to China. We will address a ceremony at Pak-China Center in Islamabad Saturday where he will also make a speech along with his counterpart Gilani.

Former foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmad Khan said that “there is no need to expect too much from the visit”.

“We have made it a habit to look towards others to bail us out through difficult times instead of relying on our own,” he regretted, and added that “China was watching its own interest while increasing ties with India”.

Wen, who is scheduled to return to China Sunday, will also hold meetings with President Asif Zardari during the visit.

Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Syed Naveed Qamar will perform the duties of minister-in-waiting during the visit.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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