China says unaware of Gwadar port proposal
Wednesday May 25, 2011 (1348 PST)
BEIJING: China`s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday China was unaware of a request by Pakistan for Chinese help in building a naval base at its deep-sea port of Gwadar, strategically located on the Arabian Sea.
Pakistan`s Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar, who accompanied Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on a visit to China last week, said on Saturday the proposal was floated during the trip, which highlighted the neighbours` close ties.
But the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters “I haven`t heard of this project. As far as I know this subject was not brought up during the visit [of Gilani] last week,” adding, “China and Pakistan are friendly neighbours and engage in extensive cooperation across the board. Over the years, China has provided as much assistance to Pakistan as within our capacity.”
Jiang said Beijing hoped that assistance would help Pakistan “realise sustainable development” and improve the livelihood of its people. China had provided about 75 percent of the initial $250 million in funding for the construction of Gwadar port in Pakistan`s southwestern province of Balochistan.
Defence Minister Mukhtar said China had agreed to take over port operations, without offering a timetable, adding that Islamabad would be “more grateful to the Chinese government if a naval base was constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan.”
Gilani`s trip to China was widely seen as a way for Islamabad to deflect pressure from Washington in the wake of the May 2 killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a US special forces raid on Pakistani soil.
Mukhtar said Pakistan hopes to take delivery within the next six months of 50 JF-17 fighter jets manufactured jointly with China.
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