Pakistan’s Ambassador to China, Masood Khan has said the momentum between China and Pakistan relations is very strong.

During an interview with China’s biggest web portal, china.org.cn, the Ambassador said both the countries need to maintain this momentum and work harder to take their relationship to new heights. He said economic cooperation, cultural exchanges, and particularly the relations between the people of the two countries should be enhanced.

Ambassador Khan said in the past few years, the two sides have maintained vigorous high-level political dialogue. In the past four years, the President of Pakistan has visited China nine times and former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani visited China five times. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Pakistan in December 2010, Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang visited in June 2010 and State Councilor Dai Bingguo visited in December 2011.

He said the newly elected Prime Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, will visit China later this month to attend the World Economic Forum New Champions meeting taking place in Tianjin. But this visit is also very important because he will be able to meet the Chinese leadership and further strengthen bilateral ties, he added.

Ambassador Khan said that towards China there is continuity in Pakistan’s foreign policy. The new Prime Minister will build on the strong foundation we have, to consolidate what we have already achieved and to help move this relationship to new heights, he said. 

A decade ago, the total volume of Pakistan-China trade was only about US$2 billion. But in 2011, the total volume of bilateral trade reached US$10.6 billion. In the past four years overall Pakistan-China trade increased by 70 per cent; whereas Pakistan’s exports to China have doubled to US$ 2.2 billion. "It is encouraging," Khan said. "In 2010, there was an increase of 37 percent and last year we saw [an increase of] 22 percent," he maintained.

China became Pakistan's largest trading partner in 2011. Pakistan is currently China's second largest trade partner in South Asia. Both the countries have set a goal for US$15 billion in bilateral trade by 2015. The present volume of trade is not high enough," Khan said, "we need to work harder to expand, deepen and diversify our economic and trade relations.”

He said that both sides are working to fully utilize their free trade agreements on goods, investment and services they signed between 2006 and 2009. "We have requested the Chinese government and private sector to help us strengthen our capacity in processing and manufacturing, textiles, leather products, garments, and also in the light engineering sector," he said.

The Ambassador said that cross-infrastructure development is a priority for governments of Pakistan and China. The Karakoram Highway is being upgraded and plans are being considered to explore a rail link between Khunjerab and Havelian and to establish a fiber link. An advanced infrastructure and communication network will revolutionize investment and trade in the adjoining regions of Pakistan and China as well as the region.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, a three-member Chinese delegation recently visited Pakistan to conclude an agreement to order 100 tons of Pakistani mangoes. "We are thankful to the Chinese government that they have sent official Chinese missions to go to Pakistan, and identified a product that can find a market here in China." Khan said.

Cooperation is also continuing with China in the field of agriculture with a focus on development of hybrid seeds of cotton, corn, wheat and rapeseed oil, he said. China and Pakistan decided to establish agricultural technology demonstration zones in Pakistan during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Pakistan in December 2010. This is an important step that would revolutionize agricultural production and trade in the region, he said.

Asked about the recent strain in the Pakistan-US relations following attack on a Pakistani border post by US/NATO troops, Khan said our bilateral relations are back on track adding that engagement is now taking place at all levels.

Khan maintained that Pakistan and the US have had a long history of close relations, despite ups and downs. It is important that Pakistan's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence are respected. Best inter-state relations are based on the principles of mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual benefit, he said.

Turning to Afghanistan, Khan said that Pakistan supports Afghanistan’s efforts to create conditions of peace, stability and prosperity. He said Pakistan has been contributing to the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan. Pakistan attaches highest importance to the initiation of an intra-Afghanistan dialogue to ascertain the wishes of the Afghan people. But, he said, such a dialogue as well as national reconciliation process should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors, especially China have a special responsibility in this regard. Recently, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China have established a trilateral mechanism to coordinate their positions. The establishment of the platform is for the three countries to enhance friendly cooperation and maintain regional peace and stability.

He said the war against terrorism has caused devastation in Afghanistan and in the bordering Pakistan territory. International community’s help in the reconstruction of these areas is very important. China is already playing a very constructive role by investing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he added.

In addition, Khan said, we appreciate SCO’s support for efforts to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was on the agenda of the last SCO summit. An SCO Contact Group has also been reviewing developments in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Khan said that Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries, particularly Afghanistan’s neighbors, should work together to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and all SCO members are committed to fighting the three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism, he said.