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Pakistan looks towards China for building naval base in Gwadar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Saturday it wanted China to build it a naval base, in the latest sign of moves to strengthen ties with Beijing as relations with Washington falter.

The announcement from Pakistan’s defence minister came a day after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani returned from a four-day visit to China, Islamabad’s biggest arms supplier.

“We would be … grateful to the Chinese government if a naval base is … constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan,” Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar said in a statement, referring to the deep-water port in Pakistan’s southwest.

The statement did not say whether Pakistan had asked China to build the base at the port in Balochistan province.

Islamabad is trying to deepen ties with Beijing as relations with the United States have strained following the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan earlier this month.

Many in Washington have called for a review of billions of dollars of US aid to Pakistan after discovering bin Laden had been hiding for years in a Pakistani garrison town.

China invested $200 million in the first phase of the construction of the port, which was inaugurated in 2007.

The development, 70 km east of the Iranian border and on the doorstep of Gulf shipping lanes, was designed to handle transhipment traffic for the Gulf. ….

Read more: The Express Tribune