‘Pakistan saved China from embarrassment on Xinjiang violence’

* Both countries have not fully utilised political ties for economic gains

* New Chinese embassy issue different from US embassy’s expansion

By Sajjad Malik

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan played a key role in dissuading certain Muslim countries from taking the issue of violence in China’s Xinjiang region to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and saved Beijing from embarrassment, Chinese Ambassador Lou Zhaohui said on Friday.

“Yes, Pakistan played its role in doing so,” the ambassador said in response to a question, adding that certain western countries were fanning the Muslim Uighurs’ issue to incite violence.

Addressing reporters at the Chinese embassy highlight the importance of President Asif Ali Zardari’s frequent visits to China, he said they had been instrumental in transforming the relations from political to economic.

Zhaohui said Pakistan had been helpful in dealing with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) militants and curbing violence in Xinjiang where nearly 20 million Muslims lived.

Political ties: On comparison between China’s relations with India and Pakistan, the ambassador said China and India were moving towards improving economic relations despite political differences and the border issue, but Pakistan and China had not fully exploited the depth of their political ties for economic gains.

Zhaohui said China had provided $1.5 billion to Pakistan since 1998, which was unprecedented in Chinese history. He said the development of the Gwadar Port was the only project undertaken by China in another country.

He said China was presently involved in 120 projects in Pakistan and over 1,000 Chinese engineers were working on these projects. He expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements of the Chinese nationals.

Zhaohui said both the countries had been already cooperating in the energy sector and President Zardari’s resent visits were also aimed at increasing cooperation in the hydropower and agriculture sectors.

Embassy: To a question, he said China was building a new embassy in Islamabad, which was different from the expansion of the US embassy. He said China would not bring in its security officials to guard the embassy as it had full confidence in Pakistan’s security system.

He said Pakistan had made considerable progress in the economic recovery and security situation since the present government assumed office. He expressed full support for the government in bringing peace and stability in the region.

The ambassador added that peace in Afghanistan was vital for peace in the region, adding China was playing its role in this regard.