Beijing: Pakistan and Sri Lanka have affirmed their close ties with China and vowed to back its new Asia security plan and President Xi Jinping`s Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative.
Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain and Sri Lanka`s Mahinda Rajapaksa have held separate meetings with Xi in Shanghai during their two-day visit to attend the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.
The meetings took place in the backdrop of a government change in India and an invitation by Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi to SAARC leaders to attend his swearing-in as part of an attempt to step up India`s neighbourhood diplomacy.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which have emerged as strong allies of China receiving large financial aid and investments, backed Xi`s plan for Asia mooted at the conference yesterday.
The new security plan included a code of conduct and settlements of disputes without intervention of countries from outside, namely the US.
Hussain told Xi that Pakistan-China friendship is the foundation of Islamabad`s foreign policy and that he appreciates China`s support.
On economic cooperation, Xi called on the two countries to jointly promote the construction of the China-Pakistan economic corridor, an important part of the Silk Road economic belt, through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), and the 21st century maritime Silk Road.
The MSR, aimed at improving trade among Asian nations via sea, was mooted last year with countries of Southeast Asia by President Xi Jinping.
Xi urged the two sides to ensure the operation of joint projects in Pakistan`s Gwadar port and the Lahore Metro.
In his meeting with Rajapaksa, Xi termed Sri Lanka a reliable friend and an important partner in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
He extended China`s support for Sri Lanka`s efforts to maintain sovereignty and territorial integrity, and opposes any interference in Colombo`s internal affairs.
China has voted against the US-backed resolution in the UNHRC on rights violations in Sri Lanka during the civil war.
Xi also called Sri Lanka an important partner in building Maritime Silk Road and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Rajapaksa said his country hopes to actively participate in both the initiatives and vowed to step up maritime cooperation with China.
China has set up USD 1 billion for MSR and has invited India to be a part of the initiative.
Xi also said the countries should soon start negotiations on a China-Sri Lanka free-trade area.
China encourages its companies to invest in Sri Lanka and has cooperated in projects such as industrial parks, economic zones, power, highways and railways, Xi said.