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Nuclear energy tops Musharraf agenda

Pallavi Aiyar

Five-day China visit from Sunday

BEIJING: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf arrives in Beijing on Sunday for a five-day visit to China, with nuclear energy on top of his agenda. Following unsuccessful efforts at securing cooperation from the United States and European countries in developing Pakistan's nuclear energy capabilities, Gen. Musharraf will be seeking assistance from Beijing, according to reports in the Pakistani press.

Pakistan's current nuclear capacity stands at 437 MW but its stated intention is to increase this to 8500 MW by 2030. China assisted its traditional ally in the installation of the 300 MW Chashma Nuclear Power Plant.

Now, Islamabad reportedly wants Chinese cooperation in installing two more nuclear power plants.

Gen. Musharraf's visit comes just a few days after three Chinese engineers were killed by gunmen in Pakistan's Balochistan province. Nonetheless, analysts say that the incident is unlikely to affect his agenda in China with its focus on security, energy and economic cooperation.

Both Gen. Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz have assured Chinese leaders of Islamabad's determination to apprehend the culprits and increase security for Chinese nationals in the country. There are currently around 1,000 Chinese workers involved in infrastructure projects and industries in Pakistan.

During his visit, Gen. Musharraf will meet his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao and other top ranking leaders.

All-weather relations

Earlier in the week, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson described the visit as crucial to cementing "the Sino-Pakistan all-weather friendship and all-directional cooperation." He said the intensifying cooperation between the two nations "is not only beneficial to the countries themselves, but also to the stability and peace of the region."

The Pakistani leader is also scheduled to speak at a business forum in an attempt to consolidate bilateral trade ties and seek more Chinese investments in his country. According to a Pakistani embassy official, joint ventures in textiles, energy and communications will be explored.

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