China and Pakistan should make cooperation on power generation a priority, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said, as Islamabad seeks to end an energy crisis that triggers power cuts of up to 20 hours a day, bringing the economy to a near standstill.
Li arrived in the Pakistan capital under extra-tight security on May 22 on the second leg of his first official trip since taking office in March after a visit to Pakistan’s and China’s arch rival, India.
Li’s plane was escorted by six air force fighter jets as it entered Pakistan air space. Security measures also included shutting down mobile phone networks across the city.
Pakistan was one of the first countries to switch diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to China, in 1950, and Li told a lunch attended by Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif and President Asif Zardari that China and Pakistan should remain “trustworthy partners” and good neighbors.
In an interview with Pakistan media, Li said there was still “great potential” for the relationship. Bilateral trade last year rose above $12 billion for the first time and both sides are aiming to reach $15 billion in the next two or three years.
“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,” Li said.
The power shortages have sparked violent protests and crippled key industries, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs in a country already beset by high unemployment, a failing economy, widespread poverty, sectarian bloodshed and a Taliban insurgency.