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Chinese President Visits Pakistan

  • Benjamin Sand

Chinese President Hu Jintao is in Pakistan for a four-day visit expected to reinforce ties between the two long-time friends. The Chinese leader is cementing relations with both India and Pakistan this week as Beijing continues to expand its political and economic influence throughout the region. VOA's Benjamin Sand reports Islamabad.

After a four-day swing through India, Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Pakistan.

It is the first visit to Pakistan by a Chinese president in more than 10 years. Officials here say they expect to strengthen ties between the two countries, which are celebrating 55 years of diplomatic relations.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasneem Aslam says China remains one of Pakistan's most important friends on the global stage.

"China has been one or our most trusted, reliable and consistent relations," she said.

The Chinese leader will hold meetings with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and other officials during the next few days.

The countries are expected to sign several new agreements to bolster bilateral support for economic growth and cultural exchanges. Pakistani officials say a free-trade agreement between the two countries is being negotiated and could be signed during Mr. Hu's visit.

Both countries are seeking help in securing greater access to affordable energy. China is developing a Pakistani seaport to help speed delivery of Middle Eastern oil supplies.

Pakistan also is reportedly pressing China to help build several nuclear power plants for civilian use. China has already helped build a 300-megawatt plant and a second nuclear power plant is under construction.

China's support for Pakistan's nuclear energy program sets it apart from Islamabad's other close international supporter, the United States, which has refused to provide similar assistance, because of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.

Washington has reached a landmark nuclear-development agreement with Pakistan's archenemy India.

China has shared Pakistan's historic rivalry with India, but is moving to improve relations there as well. During his visit to India, President Hu insisted Beijing would not take sides in the long-running rivalry between New Delhi and Islamabad.

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