Pointing to Pakistan's energy deficit, its President Asif Ali Zardari has urged the Chinese leadership to continue supplying civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan, despite growing international concern over China's nuclear engagement with the country.
In talks on Thursday, Mr. Zardari also urged China to accelerate plans to introduce a railway line between the two countries, after a spate of problems have plagued the Karakoram Highway, which runs from China's Xinjiang region to Pakistan and is the only strategically-significant land link between the two countries.
In meetings with President Hu Jintao on Wednesday and Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday, Mr. Zardari said his country needed Chinese assistance in developing “an energy mix” which included nuclear power reactors, as well as hydropower, wind and solar energy, the official Associated Press of Pakistan reported. On Thursday, Mr. Zardari also discussed long-pending plans for China and Pakistan to establish railway connectivity between Xinjiang and Havelian. The two countries have long discussed plans for a rail link in light of persisting problems that currently limit connectivity through the Karakoram Highway. The plan has, however, made little progress since 2004, when a pre-feasibility study was conducted.
Indian officials have expressed concern over the proposed line, parts of which are likely to pass through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.
Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju said this week that it was a matter of concern, but India was “taking our own counter-measures”.
Mr. Zardari's spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said in a briefing on Thursday, open only to Chinese and Pakistan reporters, that Mr. Zardari had called on China to accelerate plans for the rail link, but did not say if the two countries had come to any agreement. He said the two countries had also discussed their $500-million plan to upgrade the Karakoram Highway and make it more resistant to adverse weather conditions.
The strategically-significant link is open for only six months every year, between May and October. As a result of landslides and flooding, the highway has not opened this year. While a 425-km section on the Chinese side of the border has been made an all-weather highway, China is assisting Pakistan to upgrade a 335-km stretch between Khunjerab and Raikot. The project is expected to finish in 2012.