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Pakistan, China premiers meet amid tension with US

Bloomberg Businessweek, 18 May 2011


Pakistan’s prime minister sealed a series of agreements with China on Wednesday, highlighting Islamabad’s warm ties with Beijing amid heightened tensions with Washington over the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The signing ceremony followed talks between Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the Great Hall of the People at the start of a visit to Beijing marking sixty years of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Analysts say Pakistan is emphasizing its friendship with Beijing as a snub to Washington while also reinvigorating efforts to counter Indian influence in the region.

Pakistan and China routinely refer to each other as “all-weather friends,” and Beijing offered welcome praise and reassurance to Islamabad following the May 1 raid on Pakistani territory by U.S. forces that killed bin Laden and raised awkward questions about how he had been able to live undetected in a city that is home to numerous military installations.

“I wish to stress here that no matter what changes might take place in the international landscape, China and Pakistan will remain forever good neighbors, good friends, good partners and good brothers,” Wen said in remarks before the media following the talks.

The two leaders later witnessed the signing of three agreements on economic and technology cooperation, banking and mining. An accord on military cooperation also expected to be signed during Gilani’s visit.
China-Pakistan ties were forged just two years after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 and have thrived in part on both countries’ distrust of their mutual neighbor India.

China offers Pakistan uncritical friendship, along with aid, investment, and an ally to counter India, with whom Pakistan has fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. China shares a disputed border with India over which the two fought a brief but bloody war in 1962.

Pakistan for its part provides Beijing with strong diplomatic backing in the region, the United Nations and among Islamic nations who might otherwise be more critical of China’s repressive policies toward its Muslim Uighur minority.

While both countries have troubled relations with the U.S., the new warmth between them is seen more as a symbolic gesture to Washington rather than a sign of concrete steps to come.

“Pakistan will avoid entrapment in either the U.S. or Chinese camp and much of this is about subtle warnings to the United States not to pressure Islamabad too hard,” said Michael Green, a top Asia adviser to former U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration.