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Zardari leaves for China today

October 14, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Oct 13: Pakistan and China will sign several memorandums of understanding (MoUs) pertaining to trade, counter terrorism, commerce, industrial development, banking, power and financial sectors during a four-day visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to China from Oct 14, government sources told Dawn on Monday.

There have been speculations that the two countries may go for a nuclear deal, but it has not been confirmed by any government quarter.

It has been learnt that the government has been working on modern lines to combat terrorism, especially after the Sept 20 Marriott hotel suicide attack, and decided to equip security forces with the latest arms and equipment.

Pakistan has decided to purchase scanners, arms and other equipment from China instead of the US, the sources said.

The ministers for foreign affairs, defence, finance, and environment and the deputy chairman of Planning Commission will accompany the president.

An advance party, including Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik, left for Beijing on Monday.

The president will meet Chairman of National People’s Congress Wu Bangguo, Premier Wen Jiabao and Chairman of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin.

At a weekly news briefing in Beijing, Chinese spokesman Qin Gang said it was “a pleasure for us that Mr Zardari has chosen China for his first foreign visit after ascending to the presidency”.

Talking to the Chinese media, Pakistan’s Ambassador Masood Khan said President Zardari’s visit would help further invigorate Pakistan-China relations.

He said President Zardari was maintaining a tradition visiting China first, adding that it also “demonstrates the love, affection and strong ties the leadership and people of both the countries are maintaining”.

Mr Khan said that the first objective of Zardari’s visit was not only to maintain the strategic partnership, but also to carry forward these bonds to new heights.

He said that in 2002, the bilateral trade was around $2 billion. It had now risen to $7 billion. However, the leadership of both countries was committed to raising the figure to $15 billion by 2010.

“To achieve this goal, we have to mobilise not only the government machinery, but also encourage the corporate sector of the two sides to come forward.”

APP adds: Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Pakistan and China held a meeting in Beijing setting tone for the talks between President Asif Ali Zardari and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.