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Chinese PM to address Pakistan parliament

Chinese PM to address Pakistan parliamentISLAMABAD: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is to address a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament on Sunday, wrapping up a three-day visit to Islamabad that concluded deals worth around 35 billion dollars.

Boosting trade and investment with Pakistan was the focus of the first visit by a Chinese premier in five years to the country, which is battling a Taliban insurgency and is at the forefront of the US-led war on Al-Qaeda.

Business leaders and cabinet ministers formalised around 35 billion dollars’ worth of trade deals during the visit, signing a raft of agreements designed to prop up Pakistan’s ailing economy and ease its crippling energy crisis.

Pakistan regards China as its closest ally and the deals as incredibly important to a moribund economy, which was dealt a massive blow by catastrophic flooding this year and suffers from sluggish Western investment.

The nuclear-armed Muslim nation, with a population of 167 million, produces only 80 per cent of its electricity needs, starving industry that has slumped in the face of recession and three years of Taliban-linked bombings.

Though not specifically mentioned, behind-the-scenes talks were expected on China building a one-gigawatt nuclear power plant as part of Pakistani plans to produce 8,000 megawatts of electricity by 2025 to make up its energy shortfall.

Wen is due to address both houses of parliament at around 9:00 am (0400 GMT) to end a visit that a follows a tour to India, where he and his 400-strong delegation signed deals to double trade to 100 billion dollars a year by 2015.

Pakistan imposed blanket security for the visit, which coincided with a public holiday and the weekend, determined that suicide attacks and bombings that have killed 4,000 people since 2007 would not mar the occasion.

Addressing a lunch held in his honour on Saturday, Wen declared that Beijing would “never give up” on its troubled neighbour.

“The China-Pakistan relationship has withstood the test of time and changes in the international landscape,” Wen said.

“Under no circumstances we will give up on our commitment to pursuing this partnership.”He inaugurated a 35-million-dollar cultural centre built as a monument to Pakistani-Chinese friendship and held talks with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and senior figures in the military, which depends on China for hardware.

Pakistan is reliant on China’s clout to offset the perceived threat from rival India and rescue its economy.

But local analysts recognise that China’s support comes at a price — a price that could increase as Beijing edges closer to superpower status.

“China will expect Pakistan to be more forthright in counter-terrorism,” said political analyst Hasan Askari.

“It has worries about militancy in western China”, where it wants to develop Kashgar city into a major industrial and economic centre, he added.

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