Pakistan formally awarded the contract for the operation of Gawadar Deep Seaport to China at an impressive ceremony here in Islamabad on Monday.

An impressive signing ceremony was held in this connection at Presidency that was witnessed by President Asif Ali Zardari, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Liu Jian, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, some federal ministers, members of parliament and senior government officials.

Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the ceremony actually marked the transfer of Concession Agreement from the Port of Singapore Authority to the China Overseas Port Holding Company.

President Asif Ali Zardari while addressing this signing ceremony said it is an auspicious development in Pak-China relations as well as for the people of Pakistan particularly Balochistan and it will open an era of "new opportunities".

The President said Gawadar will soon be a hub of trade and commerce in the region and it holds the key to bring together the countries of Central Asia and lending a new impetus to Pak-China relations.

The President traced the history of development of Gawadar and how it was envisioned by the PPP leaders Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and the obstacles created in its way.

President Zardari also highlighted the strategic significance of the port for China and Central Asian Republics and its potential of integrating the economies of the countries in the region.

He said the Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet are closer to Pakistani ports as compared to the ports in China adding that the development of a trade corridor linking Xinjiang to the Middle East via Gwadar Port held "huge promise".

President Asif Ali Zardari said the Gwadar project had very significant and strategic importance for China adding that nearly 60% of China's crude oil was imported from the Gulf countries which would increase in the next decade.

He said because of the proximity of the Gulf countries to Gwadar the oil flow from the Gulf to China would be greatly facilitated by the operation of this port.

The President said, "Handing over of the operation of Gwadar Port to China is manifestation of our growing ties and also shows the trust Pakistan has in the Chinese ability to deliver on our infrastructure projects."

He said development of a trade corridor linking Xinjiang to the Middle East through Gwadar Port will enhance trade and commerce not only between the two countries but also in the region.

He said it is an auspicious day in Pakistan-China relations and also an auspicious day for the people of Gawadar and Balochistan.

The President said the Gwadar Port will take another leap forward in Pak-China relations.

He said during the PPP government, a Fish Harbor cum Mini Port was built at Gawadar and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto visited Gawadar on December 14, 1989 to lay the foundation stone of Fish Harbor Project.

He said this became the stepping stone for the Gawadar Deep Sea Port.

He said Pakistan enjoys very cordial and brotherly relations with China adding that it has made extraordinary progress over the past decades.

He said China has remarkable rise in the region which is a testimony to the wisdom of its leaders.

The President said China is a source of inspiration for the peoples of developing countries around the world.

Referring to strong Pak-China ties, the President said, "Our friendship has stood the test of time and it is a relationship that is without parallel."

He said the foundations of this relationship were laid by visionary leaders of the time of the two countries and these leaders were Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He said since then the friendship between Pakistan and China has been growing.

The President said Pak-china friendship has been growing from strength to strength adding that in recent years, "our two governments have injected new energy into our relationship."

He said, "I have personally visited China nine times in the past four years and these visits have helped deepen the strategic cooperation."

The President said his frequent visit to China demonstrates two countries' commitment to forging even stronger ties.

"We are seeking to expand our existing areas of cooperation and exploring new avenues for fruitful collaboration," he added.

The President said the handing over of the operation of Gwadar Port to China is a manifestation of growing ties adding that it shows the trust in the Chinese ability to deliver on infrastructure projects in Pakistan.

President Zardari said, "We also need to build infrastructure around the Gwadar Port to promote regional trade and commerce."

The President also appreciated the Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Babar Khan Ghori, who could not attend the ceremony, for efforts in finalizing the arrangements for this signing ceremony.

The President, however, lauded Babar Ghori's efforts in facilitating the transfer of port operations to China.

Earlier, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Liu Jian speaking on the occasion said the transfer of Gwadar Port to China will bring tangible benefits to the two countries and contribute to peace, stability and development of the region.

He said Gwadar Port is part of greater framework of economic cooperation between Pakistan and China.

Four agreements were signed on this occasion to finally hand over all the operations of Gwadar Deep Seaport to China Overseas Port Holding Company.

Managing Director China Overseas Port Holding Company signed the agreements on behalf of his company with Syed Parvez Abbas Chairman Gwadar Port Authority, Aqeel Karim Dhedhi Chairman AKD Securities, representatives of National Logistics Cell and Singapore Port Authority which were the share holders when the Gwadar Port was handed over to Singapore Authority.