Beijing: A day after taking over the management of Pakistan's strategic Gwadar port, China on Tuesday said the move was "conducive" to maintaining regional stability and development and enhance bilateral cooperation.
"The transfer of the managing rights is a business project that falls under trade and economic cooperation conducted between China and Pakistan," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
The two countries officially signed an agreement on transferring the management rights of the Gwadar Port on the Arabian sea to state-owned China Overseas Port Holdings Limited in Islamabad yesterday.
While the port will remain the property of Pakistan, the company will fully assume responsibility for the port in Balochistan province and share profits from its operation.
Asked to comment on the strategic significance of the deal, Hong said, "Boosting China-Pakistan cooperation is not only in the interests of both countries, but also conducive to maintaining regional stability and development."
"Chinese companies have long been actively cooperating with Pakistan in multiple areas," Hong was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
The development of a trade corridor linking Xinjiang to the Middle East through Gwadar port will enhance trade between the two countries and in the region, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said yesterday at the signing ceremony.
Gwadar has strategic importance for China as around 60 per cent of its crude oil comes from Gulf countries that are close to Gwadar, he said.
Beijing provided about 75 per cent of the initial funding of USD 250 million for building the port.
On January 30, the Pakistan government had approved the transfer of the management of Gwadar port from Singapore to China, which played a key role in its construction.
Pakistan's decision to hand over the Gwadar port to China is a matter of "serious concern" for India, Defence Minister AK Antony had said earlier this month.
"Chinese are now constructing that port on Pakistan's request. In one sentence, I can say that it is a matter of concern to us. My answer is simple and straightforward," he had said.
Beijing has been working to develop a string of harbours in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.
It has funded ports in Sri Lanka and has been approached to help build a port in Bangladesh.
Gwadar port is situated at a strategic location at the apex of the Arabian Sea and the mouth of the Persian Gulf. It is about 400 kms away from the Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world's traded oil, overland through an expanded Karakoram Highway.