KUNMING : The 1st China-South Asia Expo provides a platform to Pakistani enterprises to create an interface and develop linkages with the Chinese companies and exhibitors from around the world, especially the South Asian countries, said Pakistan's Ambassador to China, Masood Khalid. The Ambassador was addressing the opening ceremony of the 8th China S Asia Business Forum here Friday. Around 170 exhibitors from Pakistan are participating in the Expo. Ambassador said Pakistan's participation manifests the importance the country attaches to cementing its relations with Yunnan and the region.

 "We will continue to enhance our engagement," he said.

He pointed out that the cooperation between China and South Asia has made great progress since China became an Observer in the SAARC in 2005.

The holding of this 8th Business Forum in as many years reflects that the leadership is deeply aware of the importance of trade and economic linkages between these two regions.

"We greatly admire the wisdom of the leadership and hard work of the Chinese people for making the country into one of the leading economies of the world," he said.

Ambassador Khalid said China and South Asia are linked historically and geographically through the Ancient Silk Road, and it is but natural that in future these two regions should continue to be linked even more strongly.

Pakistan is a major gateway for China to South Asia. The Karakorum Highway (KKH) which is being jointly upgraded by Pakistan and China will not only link China to the Arabian Sea, but also to South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia. A rail link between our two countries is also envisaged. Similarly, the development of Gwadar Port will greatly benefit the region, he said.

"We have already taken the first step for greater connectivity during the recent historic visit of Premier Li Keqiang to Pakistan by signing an agreement on Economic Corridor. This would benefit China, Pakistan and entire South Asia, and will facilitate economic integration of the whole region. Our two countries have an all weather friendship. The visit of Premier Li served as a catalyst for enhancing our political, trade and economic cooperation. The newly elected government in Pakistan is determined to further strengthen this strategic partnership," the Ambassador remarked.

Appreciating the Yunnan government, the Ambassador said it is commendable that the Yunnan government is encouraging South Asian business community to actively participate in exhibitions in the province, especially in the city of Kunming.

According to statistics, trade volume between China and eight South Asian countries amounted to $97.4 billion in 2011. For the first 11 months of 2012, this figure reached $84.6 billion.

The ambassador said Yunnan is truly emerging as a key hub of economic activity in western China.

Masood Khalid concluded by saying the future for the region is promising. "If developed to its full potential, the size of the China-South Asia market will dwarf anything the world has ever seen. But we need to be persistent in our efforts and remain focused."