China’s PM says Pakistan ties ‘a priority’ in call with Shahbaz Sharif

China’s Premier Li Keqiang.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang. | Photo Credit: AP

China’s Premier Li Keqiang on Monday said ties with Pakistan were “a priority” in China’s diplomacy, during a phone call with his Pakistani counterpart Shahbaz Sharif.

Mr. Li also raised last month’s suicide attack in Karachi in which three Chinese teachers and a Pakistani national were killed, near a Confucius Institute. Pakistani media reports said all the Chinese teachers at the institute had this weekend returned to China in the wake of the attack.

Mr. Li said “the Chinese side is shocked and outraged by the recent attack on Chinese nationals in Karachi, and strongly condemns this terrorist attack,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying, adding that the Chinese Premier “hoped that Pakistan will bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible, make every effort to handle follow-up matters, comfort the bereaved families and the injured, and comprehensively strengthen security measures for Chinese institutions and citizens in Pakistan to ensure that similar tragedies will not happen again.”

His comments underlined China’s security concerns over its projects in Pakistan under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The suicide attack last month was carried out by a Baloch group, while the biggest attack so far on Chinese nationals, which claimed the lives of nine Chinese citizens last year who were working on the Dasu hydropower project, was reportedly carried out by the Pakistani Taliban.

Mr. Li said China “stands ready to work with Pakistan to strengthen strategic communication” as well as “promote cooperation on such major projects as the CPEC”. The official Associated Press of Pakistan said both leaders “agreed that Pakistan and China would not allow anyone to harm the time-tested all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.” Mr. Sharif also “affirmed his government’s firm resolve to fast-track both the ongoing as well as the new projects” under CPEC.

Also on Monday, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal told a Chinese media outlet that work on CPEC would continue regardless of the attack in Karachi. He said both sides “must be mindful that there are some forces which are enemy of CPEC, which do not want CPEC to move forward,” adding that the Pakistani government “devised a strategy for greater coordination amongst all security agencies and organisations to ensure foolproof security to the Chinese working on CPEC projects.” “The best way to defeat such forces,” he added, “is not to let such incidents impact the speed of CPEC.”

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2022 5:10:20 pm |