China signalled its intent to deepen strategic ties with Pakistan and back the country’s counterterrorism efforts against international pressure, with the “all-weather” allies signing a number of defence agreements to mark the conclusion of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s four-day visit.

Pakistani officials confirmed on Friday that China agreed to speed up the delivery of 50 JF-17 fighter jets to the country, a deal analysts said underscored the importance of Chinese assistance to Islamabad at a time when relations with Washington have come under strains, with some U.S. legislators calling for a scaling back support.

A joint statement issued on Friday said China believed that Pakistan’s “efforts for promoting peace and stability in South Asia should be recognised and supported.”

It also reiterated Chinese support to Pakistan in the wake of criticism following the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden, repeating Beijing’s displeasure at the United States for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty by conducting the raid in Abbottabad.

China believed “Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity should be respected,” the statement said, adding that China “recognised the tremendous efforts and the great sacrifice that Pakistan has made in fighting terrorism,”

On Friday, Chinese President Hu Jintao also voiced strong support for Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy in talks with Mr. Gilani, pushing back against recent international criticism.

In talks earlier this week, Chinese officials told Mr. Gilani they had taken up the country’s concerns over the May 2 raid in meetings with U.S. officials, calling on them to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Chinese officials said “there should be no harm to the Pakistani sovereignty and the US should understand and appreciate concerns of Pakistan,” Mr. Gilani told reporters.

While his visit has been seen as underscoring the deepening ties between the two countries, Chinese analysts downplayed its significance on the rest of the region, and particularly on the two countries’ relations with the U.S.

“The focus of this visit was the sixtieth anniversary of ties between the two countries, and to deepen economic and trade ties” and not defence or terrorism, Rong Ying, vice president of the China Institute for International Studies (CIIS), told The Hindu.

He, however, added that “China has made clear that Pakistan’s policy on counterterrorism is based on national conditions and interests.”

“This,” he said, “has to be respected by relevant countries.”

More In: International | News