Zardari to visit China, negotiate nuclear deal

September 8th, 2008 - 11:47 am ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 8 (IANS) Asif Ali Zardari, the president-elect of Pakistan, will visit China next week to negotiate a nuclear deal similar to the one between India and the US, an official said Monday.”Pakistan is already in touch with China for the nuclear deal to meet its energy crisis and the talks would start during Zardari’s visit,” an official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Zardari, who was elected president on Saturday, will be sworn in Tuesday and has already announced that his first foreign visit will be to China.

The official said that under the proposed deal, China will supply nuclear material to Pakistan to meet its energy crisis.

“This has nothing to do with the US-India deal but that has certainly provided us a way out to meet our energy crisis,” he said.

For the last many years, Pakistan has failed to meet its growing energy needs and the situation has worsened since November 2007, with the country facing massive power cuts and adopting summer time to benefit the most from daylight and save energy.

“Of course it will take time to finalise the deal after going through its details but the initial talks would start during Zardari’s visit and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) may be signed for reaching an agreement,” said the official.

Zardari’s visit will coincide with the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games Sep 17.

“Zardari will participate in the closing ceremony as well,” said the official.

Pakistan and China have a long history of close cooperation that started in early 50s and saw stronger ties during former prime minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s era.

As foreign minister in military dictator Ayub Khan’s government, Bhutto played an active role in bringing Pakistan and China closer when the US was distancing itself from Pakistan in the mid 1960s.

In the last three years, there have been 10 state visits by Pakistani officials to China. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was the last top official to visit China last month. In April, former president Pervez Musharraf has also visited the country.

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