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India's defence minister in first trip to China in 7 years
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) July 04, 2013


Pakistan PM talks business on China visit
Beijing (AFP) July 04, 2013 - Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif started his first foreign visit since his May election in China Thursday looking to secure infrastructure projects to tackle a chronic energy crisis and economic malaise.

Since his victory at the polls, Sharif has sought to strengthen economic ties with close ally Beijing as he bids to tackle weak growth, inflation and power cuts of up to 20 hours a day.

His first meetings in the Chinese capital included appointments with leaders from state-owned heavyweights the China Investment Corporation sovereign wealth fund, China Development Bank and China Power Investment Corporation.

Sharif will also meet President Xi Jinping on Thursday and Premier Li Keqiang the following day, according to a schedule provided by Pakistani officials.

Over the weekend he will attend a China-Pakistan Energy Forum in Shanghai and meet with a power company in the southern city of Guangzhou, before flying home on Monday.

Pakistan, where Sharif won praise for pulling off high-impact infrastructure projects such as a motorway during his two previous tenures in office, has opened its arms to Chinese investment.

Premier Li -- the first foreign leader to visit Pakistan after Sharif's election -- said in Islamabad that Beijing was ready to speed up work to upgrade the Karakoram Highway as part of a proposed economic corridor between the two countries.

Earlier this year, China took control of Pakistan's Gwadar port, giving it access to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world's traded oil.

China-Pakistan trade last year reached $12 billion and is targeted to rise to $15 billion in the next two to three years.

The threat of militancy is also likely to figure during Sharif's discussions.

China is concerned that the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement -- which seeks an independent homeland for Muslim Uighurs in China's western Xinjiang region -- is training "terrorists" in Pakistan.

India's defence minister will lead a high-level delegation to China on Thursday, the first such trip in seven years, as the two sides ramp up efforts to rebuild trust after a recent flare-up over a border dispute.

A.K. Antony will meet his Chinese counterpart General Chang Wanquan during the three-day visit, with talks to include peace on their shared border as well as regional security issues, the defence ministry said.

"Both ministers are expected to discuss a number of issues, including those related to maintainance of peace and tranquillity on the border... and matters relating to regional and global security," India's ministry said in a statement.

The visit coincides with a five-day trip by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to China, his first foreign visit since his May election.

Antony's trip is the first by an Indian defence minister since 2006 and comes after a spat between the two nuclear-armed neighbours in May over troop movements in a disputed Himalayan border region.

Delhi alleged Chinese troops intruded nearly 20 kilometres (12 miles) into Indian-claimed territory, triggering a three-week standoff that was resolved after talks between local military leaders, and a withdrawal of troops from both sides.

The Line of Actual Control has never been formally demarcated, although the sides have signed accords to maintain peace in the region that was the site of a brief Indo-Chinese war in 1962.

Antony was also likely to hold negotiations on a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, a new mechanism suggested by China last year for improving border security, an official said.

His delegation, due to arrive in Beijing on Thursday evening, includes the defence secretary and top military commanders.

The trip comes after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged to build trust with India, declaring that ties between the Asian giants were key to world peace, during a visit to New Delhi in May.

Li made India the first destination on his first foreign visit, since China's leadership change in March, which he said showed the importance that Beijing attached to ties with Delhi.

Last month, India's National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon held negotiations on the boundary issue with his counterparts in Beijing.

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