(New York Times)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrived in Islamabad on Friday for a three-day visit that Pakistan officials said was aimed at strengthening the strategic partnership and economic cooperation between the two neighboring countries.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and members of his Cabinet welcomed Mr. Wen at Chaklala Air Base in neighboring Rawalpindi Friday afternoon. A red carpet was rolled out and elaborate ceremonies were held to signify the importance Pakistan attaches to China, which is considered a close ally.
“Friendship with China is a matter of pride for our nation,” Mr. Gilani was quoted as saying by local media as he welcomed his Chinese counterpart.
Apart from holding meetings with Mr. Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari, Mr. Wen was scheduled to address a special joint session of the Parliament on Sunday.
Pakistan’s military ties with China are strong and China has assisted Pakistan in tank production, fighter aircraft manufacturing and naval technology. But since the late 1990s, economic concerns have gained increased importance. Trade and energy have taken precedence in Pakistan’s relations with China.
Mr. Wen was accompanied by 260 business executives.
Pakistani officials say there is a need to enhance trade between the countries that stands around $7 billion a year. But there also are concerns here that the trade deficit is growing heavily in favor of China.
Mr. Wen arrived following a two-day visit in India that also emphasized economic themes. China and India reached agreement on business deals worth about $16 billion.
But Mr. Wen and Indian leaders failed to reach new agreements on their differences over Pakistan, India’s archrival in the region. Indian officials have been concerned about China’s reluctance to apply pressure on combating the terrorist groups operating on Pakistani soil. Indian officials have also criticized Chinese plans to build two nuclear reactors in Pakistan, fearing that nuclear materials could fall into the hands of terrorists who want to attack India.