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Chinese president meets Musharraf

Pakistan and China have long been close allies, and Beijing has helped Islamabad develop its infrastructure.

india Updated: Nov 24, 2006 13:47 IST

Visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao met with his Pakistani counterpart on Friday ahead of formal talks between the two leaders to discuss expanding ties in defence, nuclear, economic and trade sectors, officials said.

The meeting between Hu and President Gen Pervez Musharraf is continuing, and officials from the two sides will join them later, said a government official on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Air Force and Chinese Aviation Industries on Friday agreed "for long term collaboration and co-development in the fields of aircraft manufacturing and other related fields including AWACS," a PAF statement said.

It said a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Islamabad between Pakistan Air Force and a Chinese aviation company, CETC, for the improvement and further development of Chinese Airborne Early Warning System.

"The same may be delivered to Pakistan in coming years," it said.

Pakistan Air Force is already collaborating with another Chinese aviation company, CATIC, for the co-development and co-production of JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft.

Fight JF-17s are expected to be delivered to Pakistan during 2007.

On Friday, Hu was also expected to witness the signing of a free trade deal with Pakistan that will more than triple bilateral trade to $15 billion (euro11.5 billion) in five years.

"China will help us build more nuclear power plants to enable us to meet our growing energy demands," said the official.

Pakistan and China have long been close allies, and Beijing has helped Islamabad develop its infrastructure, including building a nuclear power plant and a deep-sea port.

Hu, who arrived on Thursday in Islamabad on the first visit to Pakistan by a Chinese leader in 10 years, will sign a raft of economic deals aimed at expanding a burgeoning bilateral trade that grew 39 per cent last year to $4.26 billion (euro3.3 billion).

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.

"We are expecting to take volume of bilateral trade to $15 billion (euro11.5 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 given a rare red carpet reception at Islamabad's international airport by Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and the entire Cabinet as well as the heads of each of the defence services.

Hu was later driven in a heavily guarded convoy for a banquet at Pakistan's presidency building.

"We feel proud to be friends of Pakistan and will further enhance our strategic relationship," Hu said during an address to the banquet, according to private-run Geo TV.

Musharraf vowed to resolve his country's differences with India, particularly over Kashmir, and called for stability in war-wracked Afghanistan.

"Success in this endeavor would usher in a new era of peace and prosperity in South Asia," he said.

On Friday, Hu would also meet with 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.

First Published: Nov 24, 2006 12:25 IST