(Reuters) – Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visits China from Tuesday for high-level talks that may cover economic and security ties, as well as nuclear cooperation that has prompted qualms from other powers.
Here are some facts about relations between the long-time partners:
* China and Pakistan call each other “all-weather friends” and their close ties have been underpinned by long-standing wariness of their common neighbor, India, and a desire to hedge against U.S. influence in the region.
* China is Pakistan’s main supplier of conventional arms and analysts believe China supported Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme in past decades.
* Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited China last month, and over the weekend the two countries held a military drill in China the two sides said was aimed at honing their ability to respond to militant attacks.
* China helped Pakistan build its main nuclear power generation facility at Chashma in Punjab province, is completing a second reactor there, and has plans to built two more.
* China also helped build the deep-sea Gwadar port on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast, partly with a view to opening up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf, across Pakistan to western China.
* The United States is also a close partner of Pakistan, but analysts say Pakistan sees China as a counterweight to the West. According to a Pew survey of Pakistan public opinion last year, 84 percent of respondents said they had a favorable few of China, and 16 percent had a favorable view of the United States.
* Soon after assuming power, Zardari announced he would visit China every three months. But until now Beijing has appeared lukewarm toward Zardari, according to Andrew Small of the German Marshall Fund.
* Zardari’s latest trip, including meetings with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, may mark a warming in that relationship.
* Annual two-way trade was worth $6.8 billion in 2009, according to Pakistan. Trade flows go heavily in China’s favor. It exported goods worth $5.5 billion to Pakistan and imported $1.3 billion worth from there. The two countries have set a target of $15 billion by 2011, helped by free trade agreements.
* But the global financial crisis and Pakistan’s frayed economy have frustrated those ambitions, and Pakistan’s growth and trade lag India’s.
* Chinese companies are involved in telecommunications, hydropower, mining and highway projects in Pakistan.
* China also helped build the Gwadar port in Baluchistan, and the Karakoram Highway, connecting northern parts of Pakistan to far western China, which could be upgraded to provide a conduit for Chinese energy imports from other markets.
* China has urged mainly Muslim Pakistan to take action against Uighur militants from the western Chinese region of Xinjiang who have slipped in to Pakistan in past years.
* On July 5, 2009, deadly violence broke out between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang, killing 197 people, many of them Han residents attacked by Uighurs. Pakistan deplored the riots, winning praise from China for its stance.
* The safety of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan is a also major concern for China. Several Chinese workers have been killed in militant attacks in Pakistan in recent years.
(Sources: Reuters; Chinese Ministry of Commerce; APP; Andrew Small, “China’s Caution on Afghanistan-Pakistan”; Bruce Riedel and Pavneet Singh, “U.S.-China Relations: Seeking Strategic Convergence in Pakistan”)
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)