ISLAMABAD - Visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday promised to enhance the defence cooperation between China and Pakistan, besides reiterating the Chinese commitment to strengthen bilateral economic and trade relation and help in major energy and infrastructure projects.

The incoming Pakistan prime minister, Nawaz Sharif held a delegation level meeting with the Chinese prime minister and discussed host of bilateral and regional issues. Earlier in the day, a top military team led by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Khalid Shameem Wyne and including services chiefs also called on the visiting dignitary.

The Nawaz-led delegation included Shahbaz Sharif, Ch Nisar Ali Khan, Senator Ishaq Dar and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, while Chinese premier headed a team of ministers and business and trade representatives. The two sides held in-depth discussion on the ways to further strengthen the existing bilateral and strategic relations.

They also discussed cooperation in various fields, including energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan. Sources said that Nawaz invited Chinese investment in the energy sector and emphasised the need for enhanced civil nuclear cooperation for long-term energy generation and management in Pakistan.

The PML-N chief also stressed the need for increasing connectivity between the two neighbours by developing infrastructure for trade and increasing trade volume through special efforts. He said Pakistan would like to benefit from Chinese experience in major infrastructure projects.

Premier Li congratulated Nawaz and his party on success in May 11 general elections and hoped it would help strengthen democracy in Pakistan. The Chinese prime minister also extended invitation to PML-N chief to visit China which he accepted.

Talking to media persons later, Nawaz said “Our friendship with China is deep rooted. This trip will further strengthen our cooperation and friendship. Both countries enjoy mutual trust and want to work together.” He said that China‘s visit would be one of his first foreign tours after taking charge of PM office. He said both leaders agreed on cooperation in economic and defence fields.

In his meeting with the high-level military team, Premier Li assured that Beijing would leave no stone unturned in supporting Pakistan’s efforts for development, peace and stability in the region. He said that Pakistani military is not only an important force in maintaining security and stability in Pakistan but also a firm supporter of the Pak-China friendship.

He praised Pakistani military in successfully countering terrorist threats and sacrifices rendered in this regard and urged the international community to help Pakistan overcome difficulties and cope with challenges under the premise of respecting its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Chinese Premier expressed his gratitude to Pakistani military leadership in tracking down Chinese origin militants associated with terrorist organisations including al-Qaeda. He said that China would like to deepen military relations and defence cooperation between the two countries.

Also on Thursday, China formally assumed charge of Pakistan’s deep-water Gwadar Port following an agreement signed between the two countries in February this year.

The operation started with unloading of a vessel carrying Urea fertilizer, sources in the ministry of ports and shipping said.

They said that three companies including China Port Holding, China Merchant and Cosco Shipping would be responsible for the handling of Gwadar port. China and Pakistan are set to enhance connectivity through roads, rail and air between the two countries to increase trade via Gwadar Port and would set up an economic corridor soon.