China promises to help Pakistan during financial difficulty

October 16th, 2008 - 8:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Oct 16 (DPA) China said it was sympathetic to Pakistan’s financial situation and would help its long-term ally “within its capability”, as Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari continued his visit Thursday.”As an all-weather friend, China understands Pakistan’s economic and financial difficulties,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

“We are ready to support and help Pakistan within our capability,” Qin told reporters, adding that financial organizations in the two nations would “keep communication” over the issue.

Zardari met Premier Wen Jiabao Thursday, following talks with President Hu Jintao and the signing of several bilateral agreements Wednesday.

The Financial Times reported earlier that Zardari was expected to seek a soft loan of $500 million to $1.5 billion from the Chinese government to avoid a looming default on external debts.

But Qin did not say if the Pakistani leader had made any request for specific aid.

Some media reports said Pakistan was likely to seek a civil nuclear deal with China similar to the recent agreement between the US and Pakistan’s archrival India.

China has already helped Pakistan build a 300-megawatt nuclear power plant while work on a similar facility is under progress.

Qin Thursday said he had “no information on whether the two countries signed any energy deal”.

Zardari and Hu attended the signing of agreements covering areas including economic cooperation, trade, broadcast and communications satellites, the environment, mining, agriculture and technology.

Zardari’s choice of China as his first overseas visit since taking office showed the importance he attached to ties with China, state media quoted Hu as saying.

Pakistan’s leader thanked Hu for China’s economic assistance and said Pakistan wanted to expand cooperation in trade and infrastructure, reports said.

Zardari’s four-day visit, which began Tuesday, comes as relations between Washington and Islamabad, two key allies in the international fight against terrorism, have been strained due to increasing US drone attacks on suspected militant hideouts inside Pakistan near its Afghan border.

According to official figures, annual trade between China and Pakistan has already surpassed $7 billion, and the two sides are aiming to increase that to $15 billion by 2011.

China is also the biggest weapons supplier to Pakistan and the two countries have jointly developed the JF-17 Thunder jet fighter and K-8 jet trainer aircraft.

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