ISLAMABAD: Dr Fehmida Mirza, federal minister for inter provincial coordination, on Monday directed the provincial governments to identify areas of cooperation with China.

The minister said this while chairing a meeting of provincial and local government representatives for the Pakistan-China Year of Friendship Sister Provinces/Cities 2019, on Monday, according to a press release.

In the meeting, it was briefed that Prime Minister Imran Khan visited China last year and it was agreed to celebrate 2019 as the year of friendship with China. The leadership of the two countries agreed to improve exchanges and dialogue between leaders at provincial/city levels to expand cooperation.

Mirza underscored the importance of investing more in the socio-economic sector and said that it was a time for Pakistan and China to engage more deeply. Establishing contacts and cooperation at city to city or at local governments level can further strengthen bilateral relations, she added.

It was sad that under Pakistan-China Sister Cities, there were a number of MOUs signed between different cities of Pakistan and China but those were generally dormant with no active people-to-people and economic cooperation.

Establishing new provinces/sister city relationships between the two countries is the spirit of the 2019 Year of Friendship Sister Provinces/Cities.

The IPC Ministry was made the focal ministry in this regard. “It is a great opportunity to enhance our cooperation with China in different areas” the minister said.

She also directed the representatives of different provincial governments and cities to formulate proposals, with a defined time frame and budgetary allocations, to identify the desired areas of cooperation, including exchange between the local governments, heads and deputy heads, enhancement of trade and investment, energy/ industrial linkages, exchange of culture, sports, tourism, youth exchanges, agriculture and people-to-people contact with their sister cities of China.

The minister stressed the provinces/cities to come up with innovative ideas to enhance engagement with different cities of China for this calendar year. Nominations of the focal persons to coordinate provincial governments would also be finalised at the earliest. The follow-up meeting will be commenced soon.