China's Prime Minister has arrived in Pakistan at the start of a four-nation tour of South Asia. He is expected to sign a number of agreements with his country's long-time ally, as part of a general effort to raise China's prestige and influence in the region.
It is Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's first visit to Pakistan, but the two countries' political and military ties date back to the height of the Cold War.
Mr. Wen is accompanied by a large delegation of Chinese diplomats and economic leaders, a reflection of China's increasing influence in Asia as it makes the transition from developing nation to economic powerhouse.
On Wednesday, Mr. Wen is due to deliver the keynote address at a meeting of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue, a 26-member forum promoting regional economic cooperation. He is also scheduled to hold private discussions with Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jalil Abbas Jilani says the visit will help strengthen Sino-Pakistani ties in many areas.
"A large number of bilateral agreements will be signed in political, economic, trade, defense, education, agriculture, and other fields," said Mr. Jilani.
In all, China is expected to commit at least $350 million dollars to Pakistan in development aid and investment, for projects including new highways, harbor improvements, and an expanded nuclear power plant.
China and Pakistan formed a close relationship during the Cold War, to offset political and military cooperation between their respective rivals, the Soviet Union and India. China was not only a political adversary of India, but the two countries fought a brief border war in 1962.
Ties between Beijing and New Delhi have warmed recently, and China is attempting to improve its relationships throughout South Asia. After Pakistan, Mr. Wen is due to head to India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.