Cementing a partnership
Afghanistan. The expression of political solidarity by the Chinese leader was aimed at bolstering Pakistan's position in the face of these pressures, and signal that Beijing, for one, would stand firmly ?by Pakistan through what Premier Wen described as "tough times." Prime Minister Wen's visit did more than provide much needed diplomatic support for an ally under pressure. It sought to elevate the partnership by the promise of greater coordination at the global level. The 7-page joint statement referred to the fact that "China-Pakistan relations have gone beyond bilateral dimensions and accquired broader regional and international ramifications". It also announced the establishment of a leadership level annual consultation mechanism. This reflected the priority Beijing attaches to Pakistan in its global agenda.
The affirmation of a global partnership has added significance in the context of the shifting international balance of power marked by China's growing clout. For Islamabad this holds the prospect of coordinating more closely with a diplomatically assertive Beijing at multilateral forums to advance mutual goals, including UN Security Council reform, on which the two countries have "common interests" as Wen acknowledged in his speech.
The visit also aimed at diversifying the bilateral relationship from the traditional focus on defence and military cooperation towards greater economic, trade and investment ties including help for Pakistan's critical infrastructure needs.
The Chinese offer to help in the energy sector was recognition of Pakistan's pressing priority. An energy cooperation mechanism is expected to advance cooperation in conventional, renewable and civil nuclear energy. This will include Chinese assistance to upgrade Pakistan's national electricity grid and undertake large hydroelectric projects as well as continue collaboration on the Chashma III and IV civilian nuclear projects. Agreements and MOUs covering other projects and deals worth an estimated $30 billion were signed during the visit. They included $10 billion of trade deals. Current bilateral trade remains modest at $7 billion but is expected to more than double in five years due to robust annual growth and plans to further liberalise and expand trade under existing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) on goods, investment and services. Beijing's assent to give Pakistan unilateral concessions on 286 products is designed to help boost Pakistani exports. The emphasis in future trade and infrastructure cooperation on promoting development in border areas and establishing trans-border economic zones reflected the common strategic vision to link China's western region to Pakistan's southern coast and to commercially bind Pakistan more closely to China's expanding economy. With the signing of the new agreements, Pakistan emerged as the top destination for Chinese investment in South Asia.