12/17/2010, 00.00
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After India, Wen travels to Pakistan

The Chinese leader flies to Islamabad from New Delhi where important agreements await for him, especially in the fields of nuclear energy, transport and banking. In India, many economic deals were reached, but very little in other areas.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China’s Prime Minister ended his official visit to India today and flew to Pakistan for a three-day visit. In the South Asian nation, he is expected to sign a number of agreements. He and his Pakistani hosts are particularly keen to discuss a possible land route between Pakistan and China.

China is one of Pakistan’s main trading partners. Islamabad hopes to sign business agreements worth some US$ 20 billion with executives from agricultural, construction and health services companies travelling with the Chinese delegation.

Wen is expected to meet today his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani to discuss the Chinese-built port of Gwadar, which is envisioned as the terminus of a transport corridor that would carry Middle Eastern oil and other goods from Africa to China.

Beijing now wants to build a railroad and a pipeline from Gwadar to the western Chinese city of Kashgar, through steep mountains, a very challenging prospect at best.

Gwadar is currently connected to the business hub of Karachi and the rest of Pakistan by a 450-kilometre road, most of it two lanes. Poor road connectivity is one of the factors that limit the port’s traffic.

Pakistan is equally interested in Chinese investments in steel, automobile, electronics and domestic appliances, and for this, it is willing to offer various incentives.

Wen travelled to Pakistan from India where he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday. The two leaders focused on business and trade, saying that they would like to see bilateral trade double to US$ 100 billion by 2015.

At present, the two countries want to boost trade after decades of rivalry and confrontation. For this reason, both Wen and Singh avoided contentious issues like China’s close ties to Pakistan, India’s traditional rival with whom New Delhi fought three wars and remains deeply at odds over Kashmir.

China is one of Pakistan’s main military suppliers, providing weapons and technology without preconditions.

Nothing suggests that Wen and Singh addressed divisive issues like their borders or the Brahmaputra River, which originates in China and flows into India.

In fact, China and India appear to be more interested in economic development, and share common ground vis-à-vis the West. Their growing ties are not a problem for Pakistan, this according to Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani.

In Pakistan is already benefitting from its own ties with China. The Chinese have already built a 300-megawatt nuclear power reactor in Punjab province and are planning another. Feasibility studies for a one-gigawatt nuclear power plant also appear to be underway. This has led the United States to urge China to get approval from the 46-country Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, which works to avoid the uncontrolled spread of nuclear technology.

For Pakistan's ambassador to China, Masood Khan, “The major breakthrough [in Sino-Pakistani talks] is expected to take place in the banking sector”. Beijing wants to see its financial institutions open branches in Pakistan, banks like the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the country’s top private sector bank.

Security issues are also likely to weigh on the agenda. China has been concerned about the threat of Islamist militants infiltrating its territory from Pakistan, particularly in its western Xinjiang region.

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