Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday told his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang that their countries’ relationship was “sweeter than honey”.
He expressed these views during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in which economic ties were at the top of the agenda.
Pakistan and China have close diplomatic and military allies and Nawaz, who is on his first foreign trip since becoming prime minister, is looking to secure infrastructure projects to tackle a chronic energy crisis and economic malaise in his country.
At the Great Hall of the People in the Chinese capital, Nawaz said his welcome “reminds me of the saying, our friendship is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the deepest sea in the world, and sweeter than honey”.
Li told him: “I greatly appreciate your great warmth and deep affection for the people of China.”
The Chinese premier was the first foreign leader to visit Pakistan after Nawaz Sharif’s victory in the May polls.
Beijing has been involved with the upgrade of the Karakoram Highway as part of a proposed economic corridor between the two countries.
Earlier this year, China took control of Pakistan’s Gwadar port, giving it access to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world’s traded oil.
China-Pakistan trade last year reached $12 billion and is targeted to rise to $15 billion in the next two to three years.
On Thursday, Nawaz held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, amid concerns in his country over weak growth, inflation and power cuts of up to 20 hours a day.
Xi, who referred to Sharif as an old friend and a good brother, said strengthening strategic cooperation with Islamabad was a priority for China’s diplomacy, the state-run broadcaster China Central Television reported.
Nawaz said his country welcomed Chinese investment and would work to create a friendly environment for it.
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received a red carpet welcome from the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on his arrival at the impressive building of Great Hall of the People.
While both leaders were inspecting the guard of honour, there were 19 gun salutes in the background to herald the arrival of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a symbol of high regards and warmth on the part of the host country and its leaders.
As both leaders reached the welcome dais, a contingent of People’s Liberation Army played national anthems of both the countries.
Following the welcome ceremony, both the dignitaries held bilateral talks.
Briefing the media, Premier Li said he clearly remembered his visit to Pakistan in May when then prime minister-in-waiting Nawaz Sharif participated in his meetings with the interim leaders of Pakistan.
Premier Li greatly appreciated Nawaz Sharif’s warmth and deep affection for the people of China.
Nawaz thanked Premier Li for his remarks and the hospitality extended to him and his entourage.
He recalled his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping held on Thursday and said, “He was very kind to invite us. We exchanged similar views last night as well.”
Nawaz also thanked Premier Li for inviting him to visit China and added that he felt proud to visit China as his maiden foreign destination after assuming office.