Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday that his country was under pressure from the United States and Western powers over its close ties with China as he vowed to never buckle under that pressure.
Pakistan and China enjoy a "very special relationship" spanning over 70 years and nothing could change these time-tested ties, Khan said in an interview with English-language state-broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN), an excerpt of which was shared on his Instagram account.
Talking about the evolving regional rivalry between the US and China, Khan said that "Pakistan thinks it is very unfair for the US or other powers – western power" to pressurise "countries like us to take sides" in a conflict with China.
"Why should we take sides? We should have good relations with everyone. It is not going to happen if pressure is put on Pakistan to change its relationship or downgrade its relationship with China, it wouldn’t happen," Khan said.
Emphasising the deep relationship with China, Khan said that Pakistan would never bend under any kind of pressure.
"Whatever will happen, our relationship between the two countries - no matter what pressure is put on us - is not going to change," he said.
He said that there was a "strange, great rivalry" taking place in the region which was public knowledge.
"You see the United States being wary of China. The way United States and China are looking at each other creates problems because what the United States is doing is it's formed this regional alliance called the Quad, which is US, India and a couple of other countries," Khan said.
The Quad or Quadrilateral alliance consisting of the US, India, Japan and Australia has been resolving to uphold a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific amid growing Chinese assertiveness in the region.
Responding to a question about how to further deepen Sino-Pakistan ties, Khan said that the two sides enjoyed strong political ties but the relationship was not only limited to official relations but it was also "people to people relationship".
He said trade was important to increase ties in future and termed the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as the "biggest thing happening in Pakistan".
The CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan's Balochistan with China's Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China's ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Highlighting the 70 years of diplomatic ties, Khan said China always stood with Pakistan, which "always had a very special relationship with China".
He said that China "always stood with us" whenever Pakistan was in trouble politically or internationally or in a conflict with its neighbour.
"In good times, everyone stands with you but in your difficult, tough times, bad times, you remember those people who stood by you. That's why you will find that in Pakistan, people always have a special fondness for people in China," he said.