Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari arrived in China on Thursday on his sixth visit since he took office, during which he is expected to discuss plans for a fifth nuclear reactor and railway links.
Mr. Zardari, here to attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Guangzhou in southern China, will hold talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao later this week.
His visit takes place days after Pakistan strongly hit out at the United States endorsing a permanent seat for India on an expanded United Nations Security Council. Though the U.N. reforms process remains long drawn-out and unlikely of materialising in the near future, analysts here said Mr. Zardari was likely to raise the issue in his talks with Mr. Wen given the strong public position taken by the Pakistan Foreign Office in recent days.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said this week it favoured “patient consultations” to reach “a package of consensus” on the question of reforming the UNSC, and was willing to hold talks with all States on the matter to help narrow differences.
Mr. Zardari did not, however, refer to his government's displeasure at the U.S. announcement in an interview with the State-run Xinhua news agency on Thursday. He said he would seek Chinese assistance for infrastructure projects in flood-hit areas, and particularly stressed the need for better road and rail linkages between the two countries.
The two countries are expected to discuss pending plans to build a railway line from China's far western Xinjiang region to Havelian, through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Mr. Zardari said during his last visit, in July, that the two countries would accelerate the long-discussed plans after flooding problems closed the Karakoram Highway for long periods this year.
“It is my dream to go to China by road but that has not been realised yet, I have been trying for this many years,” he told Xinhua. China would “get a new market if connected with Pakistan by quality roads or by railway”. He also said plans to build a gas pipeline from Xinjiang to the Gwadar port were being studied.
Also likely to figure in this week's talks is the proposal for a Chinese firm to set up a 1 gigawatt nuclear power reactor in Pakistan, which would be the single biggest nuclear deal between the two countries.
In September, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), one of China's biggest State-run firms, announced it was in talks with the Pakistani government over the deal.
The CNNC has already set up two power reactors in Chashma, and in March announced it had begun work on two additional reactors. The announcement triggered international debate, going against the mandated guidelines governing nuclear trade — the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), of which China is a member, does not allow the transfer of nuclear technology to countries that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
India secured a waiver from the NSG for its civilian nuclear cooperation with the U.S. after taking on a range of commitments.