China brushes aside criticism against Pak on terror

"Pakistan has made very important contribution to international counter terrorism cooperation as well as great sacrifices," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Jiang Yu said, as Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, began a key visit to the country, declaring China as his country's best friend.

Brushing aside criticisms against Pakistan in the aftermath of the killing of bin Laden, China said it "unswervingly" backed Islamabad's counter terrorism efforts and asked US to strengthen anti-terror cooperation with Pak by providing more aid.

"Indeed Pakistan is the victim of terrorism," Jiang said.

Her comments came ahead of Gilani's four day visit beginning from today during which he is scheduled to hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on a host of issues including pressure being exerted by Washington to crackdown hard on Taliban and other militant groups.

"China will unswervingly continue to support Pakistan's efforts to counter terrorism. We believe that fending off and countering threat of terrorism is common challenge facing international community," Jiang said.

"The international community should join hands together and jointly tackle the challenge. We hope the relevant countries will continue to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan in this regard and provide further assistance," she said, without making a direct reference to US.

Giliani's visit is taking place in the immediate aftermath of the visit of US Senator John Kerry during which he reportedly delivered a tough message to Pakistani leadership to crackdown on Taliban leaders and conveyed the prevailing negative mood in Washington over continuing massive anti terror aid to Pakistan.

In her replies Jiang did not reveal whether China would step in and provide any assistance to Pakistan on its own during Gilani's visit but said Beijing would look to "further consolidating and developing friendship and cooperation" as it is common aspiration of people of both the countries.

"We are willing to work together along with Pakistani side to create a bright future for that relationship," she said.

Meanwhile Pakistan Ambassador to China, Masood Khan played down speculation that Pakistan-US cooperation on terrorism would suffer by Islamabad's efforts to move closer to China.

"This is not a zero-sum game as terrorism is a common threat that we all are faced with.
We have to pool our strength together and mobilise our collective resources of all sides in order to get rid of the scourge," Khan told China's state run Global Times.

Gilani's trip would however "tackle certain strategic developments in the region," Khan said, without elaborating.

Gilani is scheduled to arrive in Shanghai today to start a four-day visit to China as the two countries gear up to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties .

One of the major aim Gilani's visit to China is to cement economic ties between our two countries, Khan said, adding that Gilani will inaugurate the first China-Pakistan Entrepreneur Forum.

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