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JF-17 aircraft to be sold, says PM

April 20, 2007

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CHENGDU, April 19: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Thursday said the serial production of JF-17 Thunder aircraft next year would strengthen Pakistan’s defence and the country would recover investment made on the project by selling the aircraft.

Avionics testing and weapon qualification sub-phases will be completed by the end of 2007, to be followed by weapons evaluation phase planned in Pakistan. Sixteen aircraft to be produced next year will be inducted (eight each) in Pakistan and China forces. Two aircraft are planned to arrive in Pakistan in July and four in December 2007.

Prime Minister Aziz said JF-17 was “Pakistan’s proud programme and a unique example of cooperation and friendship between the two countries”. The premier was in Sichuan, Western province of China, on the second leg of his six-day visit to a country he described as an “all-weather friend and a strategic partner”.

The important aspect of the project is that training of Pakistan Aeronautical Complex personnel is currently in progress in China and infrastructure at the PAC along with other related activities is planned to be completed in Pakistan by the year-end. Officials said the project would “provide Pakistan resilience against sanctions”.Mr Aziz said the project was crucial for Pakistan in the sense that it would develop its aviation industry and increase its self-reliance in the field of defence.

He also inaugurated a consulate general in the Chengdu city, third in China after Hong Kong and Shanghai. He said the consulate general would further bolster cooperation between the two countries in all fields and facilitate people-to-people contacts. The facility in the Sichuan province would cover the fast emerging parts of western China and neighbouring provinces, he said.

He said Pakistan and China were determined to reinforce their exemplary friendship by building strong partnership in economic and trade fields, adding that Pakistan was proud of its friendship with China. “We are determined to leverage fully the natural economic complementarities for common development of our peoples,” he said

The prime minister said China was Pakistan’s most-trusted friend, good neighbour and good partner and expressed determination to further strengthen the friendship and take the partnership to new heights. He said the two countries stood by each other and shared views on major international issues.

He said Sichuan and Punjab were “sister provinces” as the Chinese province lied in a region that extended up to Pakistan.

He said there were immense opportunities and excellent prospects for developing “win-win cooperation”, especially in economic and trade areas, for the development of a vibrant partnership in tourism, culture, education and science and technology.

Mr Aziz recalled that during President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Sichuan last year, swift steps were taken by both sides to institutionalise cooperation. He said the establishment of the consulate would make it possible to promote cooperation and facilitate people from Sichuan to not only visit Pakistan but also develop business partnerships.