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China Hosts Pakistani PM, Indian Defense Minister

  • VOA News

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) talks to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing, July 4, 2013.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) talks to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing, July 4, 2013.

China is hosting Pakistan's prime minister and India's defense minister for separate talks aimed at improving ties with its two powerful neighbors.

Chinese President Xi Jinping greeted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guest House on Thursday. Chinese state television said Xi called for a strengthening of China's strategic partnership with Islamabad, a longtime ally whom he referred to as an "all-weather" friend.

Chinese television quoted Sharif as saying he picked China for his first overseas trip since taking office last month because he wants to develop friendly ties between the two countries and welcome more Chinese investment in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony arrived in the Chinese capital late Thursday on a visit aimed discussing regional security issues, including how to maintain peace on the sometimes tense China-India border.

Sharif is seeking help from Chinese infrastructure companies to ease his nation's chronic power shortages. Islamabad also authorized a Chinese state-owned company's acquisition of the Pakistani port of Gwadar earlier this year.

China took ownership of the Gwadar port facilities to gain access to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, pathways for a significant share of the world's oil. Beijing now wants Pakistani help to build an economic corridor to the southern port city from the China-Pakistan border.

China also has been pressing for Pakistani cooperation in cracking down on Islamic militants whom it says use Pakistan as a base to carry out attacks in the neighboring Chinese region of Xinjiang, home to many predominantly Muslim ethnic Uighurs.

Sharif is due to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Friday before heading to Shanghai to further promote Pakistani-Chinese trade ties.

Antony's visit to China is the first by an Indian defense chief in seven years. Accompanied by senior Indian generals, he is due to meet his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan for talks likely to focus on long-running border disputes between the nuclear-armed nations. China and India are longtime strategic rivals, but they also have an increasingly close economic relationship.