KABUL, June 11 (Xinhua) -- During their meeting in Beijing over the weekend, both Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai have expressed the need to further strengthen their two countries' bilateral relations, particularly in trade and investments.
In their meeting, Hu described Afghanistan as "an old friend"of China as he assured Karzai of his government's willingness to extend "long-term and multifaceted cooperation" to Afghanistan.
Both leaders stressed the need to upgrade the two countries' relations to the level of "strategic and cooperative partnership."
"Our bilateral relations with China have developed positively in the past decade and they will continue to deepen in the future, "Karzai told President Hu.
In a joint declaration issued after their meeting, China announced that it will provide a grant of 150 million yuan (23.8 million U.S. dollars) to the Afghan government during 2012.
Analysts here said that the warm welcome accorded to Karzai in Beijing and China's renewed commitment to support Afghanistan are clear indications that this war-torn and landlocked country could count on its big neighbor for assistance, particularly after the U. S. and NATO forces leave the country.
"China, we can say, is a trustworthy and reliable neighbor because it has never intervened in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and that is why Afghans regard China as a friendly neighbor," Faizullah Jalal, a Kabul University professor and political analyst, said.
Jalal said that China's good intention is exhibited in its investments in mineral resources in Afghanistan as well as in other fields.
He also cited China's move to promote Afghanistan as an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a sign of goodwill by China.
Hu has assured Karzai that the Chinese government will continue to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Afghanistan.
The Chinese president also told Karzai that China would strengthen cooperation with Afghanistan in education, culture, media and personnel training cooperation even as he urged the two countries to enhance security cooperation to combat the "three forces" of terrorism, namely separatism, extremism, and trans- boundary crimes, including drug trafficking.
Karzai's visit to China and his meeting with Chinese president have been widely covered by print and electronic media outlets in Afghanistan.
In an article, the English Daily Outlook said, "China is an emerging economic power in the world. Her role in Afghanistan is of great importance for the war-torn country, especially in the field of business and technology,"
The article noted that the strategic cooperation partnership between the two countries would make China play a larger role in Afghanistan.
Karzai's meetings with Chinese leaders were even more important than attending the SCO summit since it was during the sidelines of the summit that Karzai was able to receive assurances of Chinese support and cooperation, political analyst Wahid Mujda said in a forum in a local television network here.
Afghan officials are also mulling the idea of building a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China via Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
More investments from China would mean more job opportunities for Afghans which, in turn, could help alleviate poverty and improve peace and stability in the country, officials said.