President Hu Jintao will seek
to deepen China's decades-old friendship with Pakistan on Friday when the two
neighbors are due to sign a broad range of economic agreements, including a free
Pakistan President Perves
Musharraf (L) greets China's President Hu Jintao upon his arrival at a
military base in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, November 23, 2006, as Prime
Minister Shaukat Aziz (2nd L) looks on. [Reuters]
arrived in Pakistan on Thursday on the first visit by a Chinese president in a
decade. His visit also marks the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations which
analysts describe as Pakistan's most stable.
The agreements to be signed will include the fields of industry, agriculture,
energy, as well as the trade deal, a senior Pakistani government official
Trade between the two countries rose 39 percent last year to US$4.26 billion
and they hope to increase that substantially with the free trade agreement
Salman Bashir, Pakistan's envoy to China, said a free trade agreement will be
the most important document signed during Hu's four-day visit, the first by a
Chinese leader to this Muslim nation in 10 years.
"We are expecting to take volume of bilateral trade to US$15 billion within
the next five years with the implementation of the FTA (free trade agreement),"
Bashir told the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.
The Chinese leader was greeted at Islamabad's international airport by
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and the
entire Cabinet as well as the heads of each of the defense services.
Artillery blasted a 21-round salute, a brass band played China's national
anthem, drum-beating musicians performed traditional songs and scores of school
children waved miniature Chinese and Pakistani flags. Hu was later driven in a
heavily guarded convoy for a banquet at Pakistan's presidency building.
In an arrival statement, Hu said his visit was aimed at "deepening
friendship, expanding cooperation and planning the future of our relationship."
China already provides Pakistan nuclear and defense industry assistance and
is its third-largest trading partner, after the United States and the European
Pakistan is expected to buy large-ticket weapons worth at least US$10 billion
in the next five years - at least 4 billion from China alone. The weapons
include the Chinese-Pakistani produced JF-17 fighter planes, the F-22 Chinese
frigates and Chinese components for the Pakistani military¡¯s new main battle
tank known as "Al-Khalid," reported CBS' Farhan Bokhari from Islamabad.
In New Delhi, Hu offered his assistance, if asked, to help resolve lingering
disputes between Pakistan and its nuclear-armed archrival India, but added that
he would not choose sides between the neighbors, who have fought three wars
since their 1947 independence, including two over the Himalayan Kashmir region.
"I look forward to having in-depth exchange of views with President Pervez
Musharraf and other Pakistani leaders (on) bilateral relations as well as
international and regional issues of mutual interest," state-run Pakistani TV
quoted Hu as saying.
In what is expected to be the first of several economic deals made during
Hu's trip, Pakistan and Chinese officials agreed to establish a joint investment
company, involving the China Development Bank, to undertake urban and rural
infrastructure projects in Pakistan.
Dr. Salman Shah, finance adviser to Pakistan's prime minister, said the
agreement was reached during talks he held Thursday with the vice governor of
the China Development Bank, the state-run agency reported.
China will provide "necessary financial support" in the industrial, services,
agricultural, health care and education sectors, Shah said.
Pakistan is an impoverished country of 160 million people which has been
seeking increased foreign investment to help boost its infrastructure and
industry demands, as well as expand much-needed energy sources.
Bashir, the ambassador, said China and Pakistan have established a framework
to expand energy cooperation. They will investigate building an energy corridor
providing Beijing access to oil and gas resources of Central and Western Asia
and developing oil refining and storage facilities in Pakistani coastal areas.
China's official Xinhua news agency has reported that China would conclude an
accord with Pakistan in November to sell Islamabad reactors for six nuclear
power plants to be built during the next 10 years.
On Friday, Hu holds talks with Musharraf and Aziz before delivering a live
televised address to the nation. On Saturday, he travels to the eastern city of
Lahore for further talks with political and business leaders.