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CHINA, PAKISTAN INK 11 AGREEMENTS, NO INFORMATION ON N-DEAL

zardari sb

BEIJING (Agencies) — Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari reached trade deals with China on Wednesday, raising hopes that Beijing would help his country through difficult economic and diplomatic times.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Zardari oversaw the signing of 11 agreements on trade and economic cooperation, agriculture, mining and other areas, but it was unclear whether they included any concessional loans or nuclear cooperation deals, the Reuters reported.

The two presidents will issue a Joint Statement (Thursday) reflecting their resolve and commitment to carry the bilateral relations and cooperation to new heights.

President Hu Jintao hosted a banquet in honor of the President and his delegation at the Great Hall of the People after the delegations level parleys and agreements-signing ceremony, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Earlier both sides agreed to strengthen strategic partnership in all dimensions, reinvigorate the multi-faceted bilateral relations, intensify economic cooperation and foster people to people contacts in the coming years.

The two leaders and their delegations had wide-ranging discussions in warm and friendly atmosphere characteristic of long-standing ties between the two countries, Pakistan’s Ambassador in China Masood Khan told the media persons after the signing ceremony.

The talks emphasized upon retrieving the economic cooperation on strong footing in multi dimensions in line with the mutuality of interests and convergence of views in this regard.

The importance of President’s engagements on Wednesday is also marked by his threadbare interactions with the heads and chief executives of major Chinese companies operating in different sectors including banking, steel, mineral, cement, trade and other important segments of the economy.

The President’ visit to China has a special significance not only as President Zardari’s first official visit abroad, but also as the first interaction between Pakistan’s newly elected democratic leadership and China’s fourth Generation leadership that has overseen China’s dramatic economic development and progress.

During the talks, President Hu Jintao congratulated President Zardari on his election as President of Pakistan. He expressed confidence that the traditional brotherly relations between the two countries would be further beefed up under President Zardari’s leadership.

President Hu also thanked the people of Pakistan for their invaluable assistance in the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit China’s Wenchuat province earlier this year.

President Zardari offered his felicitations to the government and people of China on his tremendous success of the recently concluded Beijing Olympic games. He stated that the impressive manner in which the Olympic Games had been conducted underlined the giant strides made by the Chinese nation.

The President also congratulated his Chinese counterpart on the successful completion of the Shenzou VII Mission, terming it another milestone in China’s extraordinary scientific and technological advance.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction over the growth of Pakistan-China relations, since the diplomatic ties were first established between the two countries.

They agreed that Pakistan China friendship has truly stood the test of time and history and has emerged stronger with every important change in the international, regional and domestic environment.

Strong, multi-faceted and long-term relationship with China is not only the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy, but the fervent desire of its people. He conveyed the Pakistani people’s appreciation for the assistance rendered by China in Pakistan’s socio-economic development.

The Financial Times reported that the Pakistani president was seeking $500 million or more in soft loans from its neighbor as it grapples to stem a looming balance of payments crisis.

Washington also recently sealed a civilian nuclear deal with India that riled Pakistan. Both New Delhi and Islamabad have developed nuclear weapons to counter each other, but Washington has ruled out a similar deal for Islamabad.

Zardari, on his first visit to China as president, made clear commercial ties with Chinese companies were foremost on the Pakistani delegation’s agenda, according to Xinhua news agency.

“I chose China as my first country to visit to say to Chinese companies that I will provide favorable treatment to you,” Xinhua quoted Zardari as saying.

Hu told the Pakistani leader that his country “attaches high importance to the China-Pakistan relationship and has always made the development of the relationship as one of China’s diplomatic priorities,” state television reported.

In the official Liberation Daily, a Chinese analyst suggested recent discord was forcing Zardari to look elsewhere for more help.

“Although the United States has repeatedly declared it remains as supportive as ever of President Zardari and the Pakistan government, up to now there has not been action on these vows,” wrote analyst Wu Yongnian.

China’s trade ties with Pakistan have flagged.

In the first eight months of this year, trade between the two grew to $4 billion, a rise of 6.3 percent on the same time last year, according to Chinese statistics. China’s imports from Pakistan shrunk by 11.6 percent in the first eight months.

By contrast, China’s trade with India grew by 59.1 percent.

The 11 signed agreements included a framework agreement for mineral cooperation and a satellite purchase contract, but there was no mention of concessional loans.

Pakistan said in April China had agreed to provide $500 million in concessional loans to help the country meet its balance of payments needs. Those loans have since been disbursed.

A Chinese expert on relations with South Asia said his country wanted to reassure Islamabad that it would remain close under the new Pakistani president.

“Especially with the India-U.S. nuclear agreement, Pakistan feels troubled and neglected by Washington and Zardari would want to remind the world that he expects equal treatment,” said Zhang Li, the expert from Sichuan University in southwest China.

“The Pakistani economy is extremely troubled, and China may feel compelled to show that it won’t just stand aside. A loan seems likely, but China will also expect concessions in return.”

But Beijing does not want to become embroiled in fresh rivalry between India and Pakistan and any agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation would be a “gesture of goodwill,” rather than a substantive agreement, Zhang said.

“Any agreement would be more about showing unity. I don’t expect anything substantive in such tense times,” he said.

TEHRAN TIMES