Beijing: Describing Pakistan as the "iron brother" of China, Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday hailed Islamabad's "positive contribution" towards maintaining peace and stability, combating terrorism and promoting development in South Asia.

"When it comes to Pakistan, the first word that comes to the mind of the Chinese is ‘iron brother’. To us Chinese, Pakistan is always a trustworthy friend who is as solid as iron. Actually, Chinese netizens refer to Pakistan as "Iron Pak". This testifies to the strength of China-Pakistan friendship," he said.

Heading to Pakistan on Tuesday after his successful visit to India, Li promised to announce a number of lucrative deals to firm up 'all-weather' ties between the two long-time allies.

"The international community should give Pakistan full understanding, recognition and necessary support," media quoted him as saying.

"On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to reiterate solemnly China's continued firm support to Pakistan in its efforts to uphold independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and achieve national stability and development. This is what China-Pakistan comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation is all about," he said.

During his two-day stay in Islamabad, Li will hold talks with PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif who is set to form the next government, besides President Asif Ali Zardari.

He will also meet leaders of Pakistan's Parliament, political parties and armed forces. About all-weather ties between the two countries, Li said, "China-Pakistan relationship is indeed special, because it transcends the changes of the times and politics and represents a fine example of friendly state-to-state interactions".

"I wish to take this opportunity to reiterate to the Pakistani people and the international community that the new Chinese government will continue to pursue a policy of friendship with Pakistan," he said.

He promised to address the trade imbalance with Pakistan. Pakistan's exports to China last year increased by nearly 50 percent, he said.

"The political bond between China and Pakistan is unbreakable and our business ties as a whole have maintained growth momentum. Pakistan is the first South Asian country to sign a free trade agreement and currency swap agreement with China," he said.

"Our two sides should focus on carrying out priority projects in connectivity, energy development and power generation and promoting the building of a China-Pakistan economic corridor," he said.


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