Islamabad: Newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif, on Tuesday said that his country is ready to deepen bilateral cooperation and elevate relations with China to a higher level, which he said, is the voice of 200 million of his countrymen.

Sharif made the remarks in a meeting with the charge d'affaires of the Chinese embassy in Pakistan Pang Chunxue, who called in on the newly elected Prime Minister at his residence in Islamabad, Xinhua reported.

Noting that the Pakistan-China friendship is unique, unshakable, and deeply rooted in the hearts of the people of the two countries, Shehbaz said that "whenever Pakistan was faced with internal, external difficulties or major challenges, China has always stood firmly with Pakistan," adding that "Pakistan regards China as its steadiest friend and closest partner."

"Major development has been witnessed in Pakistan-China relations in recent years, and bilateral cooperation in political, economic, diplomatic and other fields has been deepened in an all-round way, opening a new chapter in the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)," he said.

Pakistan owes most of its debt to China. The CPEC project, which aims to connect Gwadar Port in Pakistan's Baluchistan with China's Xinjiang province, is a flagship project of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

It has been argued by various analysts that China is using "debt-trap" diplomacy to gain access to strategic assets in Pakistan with infrastructure projects in Pakistan being financed by Chinese banks.

In his address to the National Assembly of Pakistan shortly after being elected as the country's Prime Minister on Monday, Shehbaz had said that developing Pakistan-China relations is the most important thing and a priority in Pakistan's diplomatic policy, noting that China is a time-tested friend of Pakistan and the great and eternal Pakistan-China friendship can never be shaken by anyone.