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ISLAMABAD, Nov 24: Pakistan and China on Friday signed 18 agreements and memoranda of understanding, including a landmark free trade pact that could triple bilateral trade to $15 billion within five years and a key accord for developing aircraft equipped with long-range early warning radars.

President Gen Pervez Musharraf and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, who earlier held one-to-one talks, stood behind commerce ministers and officials of the two countries as they signed the agreements, including a five-year development programme.

“This serves the fundamental interests of our two peoples and is also conducive to the peace and development of our region,” Mr Hu told a joint news conference with Gen Musharraf.

“We want to work with Pakistan to raise our strategic ties to a new level,” he said.

President Musharraf said the “evergreen relationship of Pakistan and China will remain for all time”.

Mr Hu said his country would continue to help Pakistan in the field of nuclear power and provide assistance in sectors of hydro-electricity, coal and alternative sources of energy.

He said China had already developed “in very close cooperation” Chashma-I nuclear power plant and was aiding in the construction of another plant.

“In the future we will continue to carry out such cooperation.”

Pakistan, after Chile, on Friday became the second country to have an FTA with China. Both sides agreed to scale down customs duty to zero per cent on 5,104 tariff lines (products) in three years and on 3,942 items from zero to five per cent within five years after the implementation of the agreement.

Separately, Pakistan Air Force said it signed a memorandum with a Chinese aviation company, CETC, to jointly develop aircraft equipped with long-range early warning radars.“The same may be delivered to Pakistan in coming years,” it said in a statement.

The PAF and the Chinese aviation industries agreed for long-term collaboration and co-development in aircraft manufacturing and other related fields, including Awacs.

PAF is already collaborating with another Chinese aviation company for co-development and co-production of JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft. Eight JF-17s are expected to be delivered to Pakistan during 2007.

PLEDGES & ASSURANCES: Answering a question, President Hu said China wanted to see peace and stability in the subcontinent.

China, he said, supported the efforts being made by Pakistan and India to resolve their disputes through dialogue. "On our part, China is committed to play a constructive role for peace and stability and development of the subcontinent," he said. The Chinese president was asked whether his country was ready to play any role in the settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

"Peace process between India and Pakistan is conducive for South Asia and Asia as a whole. Therefore, we will encourage them to resolve their disputes peacefully," he said. In reply to a question by a Chinese journalist, President Musharraf said CBMs between Pakistan and India were proceeding well and that he was optimistic about the future.

"But there is need to focus on conflict resolution and Kashmir happens to be the core issue," he stressed.

President Musharraf said he had an excellent round of talks with President Hu and that there was unanimity of views on all issues.

Mr Hu said they both believed that their all-weather friendship and multi-dimensional cooperation were defining features of the Pakistan-China ties.

China, he declared, would continue to view its relations with Pakistan from a strategic and long-term perspective.

AREAS OF ACCORDS: Other agreements and MoUs signed between Pakistan and China are exchange of note verbales authorising the establishment of consulate-general of Pakistan in Chengdu, executive programme of the cultural agreement, accord on economic and technical cooperation, MoU for establishment of China-Pakistan joint investment company, exchange of letters authorising the construction of a China-Pakistan friendship centre in Islamabad, framework agreement on security of financing for China-Pakistan bilateral cooperation, exchange of letters for construction of schools and hospitals in the earthquake-hit areas of Pakistan, MoU for financial support for upgradation and rehabilitation of Karakoram Highway, completion certificate of the Gwadar port phase-I, contract agreement on Karakoram Highway improvement project,framework agreement between China’s Northern Industries Corporation and Heavy Engineering Complex Taxila, Huawei-TML-GSM phase-5 expansion project agreement, MoU between China-Zhenhua oil company and Pakistan's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, exploration and development of Saindak East Ore Body in Pakistan, agreement for collaboration in President's Rozgar Scheme; and PVC Back Integrated Complex of Engro-Asahi Polymer and Chemical Limited of Pakistan.