Pakistan rolled out the red carpet for its all-weather friend China on Friday as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao landed here from India without making any reference detrimental to Islamabad as has been wont with many a head of state/government visiting New Delhi over the past few months.

Though China's expanding relationship with India has been a cause of concern in certain quarters here, the fact that Mr. Wen did not concede any diplomatic ground to India vis-à-vis Pakistan has come as a relief. Consequently, despite the elaborate arrangements made to secure Moharram processions, every effort was put in to welcome the Premier in a style becoming of the enduring bilateral relationship.

Setting aside protocol, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani went to Chaklala Air Base in Rawalpindi along with several members of his Cabinet to receive Mr. Wen. Earlier, from the moment Mr. Wen's special aircraft crossed Indian airspace, it was escorted to Chaklala by four Sino-Pak joint production JF-17 Thunder aircraft.

In his arrival statement, Mr. Wen said: “The purpose of my visit this time is to solidify friendship, deepen cooperation, support Pakistan's efforts of post-disaster reconstruction, and ring in — together with Pakistan — the 60th anniversary of China-Pakistan diplomatic relations in 2011.''

About the bilateral relationship, he said China and Pakistan were all-weather cooperation partners. “Under the complex and fluid international and regional circumstances, it is a firm policy of the Chinese government to further cement and deepen the strategic partnership of cooperation with Pakistan.''

Mr. Wen later had a detailed one-on-one meeting with Mr. Gilani. Besides, delegation level discussions were also held after which 13 agreements for cooperation in a wide range of areas including energy, security and banking were inked. In all, agreements worth $24 billion are expected to be signed between the two countries during this visit.

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