Islamabad: Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf arrives in China on Thursday for a six-day trip to seek Chinese financial aid, meet his counterpart, Hu Jintao, and visit the tense northwestern Muslim region of Xinjiang.
Pakistan may seek a loan to fund its imports amid rising oil and food prices, and financing for new power plants, as electricity shortages in the country worsen, said Ahmad Rashid Malik, from the Islamabad Policy Research Institute.
As a Muslim head of state, Musharraf may help persuade Xinjiang’s Muslims to avoid reviving protests against Chinese rule, Malik said. Pakistan is one of the few countries to have backed China’s crackdown on anti-Chinese disturbances in Tibet, in contrast with international protests that have upstaged the global relay of the 2008 Olympic Games torch.
Relying on partners: Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf.
“Pakistan has come out pretty strongly in favour of Beijing,” said Rashed Rahman, a political commentator and former newspaper chief editor in Lahore. “There’s an attitude that we’re coming to the rescue of our great friend, when normally, it’s the other way around,” he said.
Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Muhammad Sadiq told reporters on 2 April that rioting in Tibet was created “by certain vested interests,” which he did not name, to disrupt China’s Olympic party. China has blamed the violence on the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, who fled Chinese rule for exile in India in 1959.
On Friday, Musharraf will address an audience of mostly Chinese business leaders at the Boao Forum for Asia on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. He will meet Hu and then fly to Beijing for talks with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
Musharraf will visit Xinjiang amid Chinese concerns that the Tibet protests could spread to Xinjiang’s 11 million Muslims, who are mostly ethnic Uighurs. Authorities have arrested suspected dissidents and tightened surveillance of Muslims since a rally against Chinese rule in the Xinjiang city of Hotan last month, according to exile groups.
Musharraf is expected to repeat calls for China’s Muslims to “work out their problems with Beijing and not indulge in extremism or jihad,” Rahman said. Sadiq, the foreign ministry spokesman, said he had no information about Musharraf’s plans in Xinjiang, except that he would meet local officials.
“China and Pakistan have what we call an all-weather friendship” based on long-term calculations, said Malik. China will be asked to help finance the 525MW power plant its Dong Fong Corp. has agreed to build near Lahore, he said.
China is helping build Pakistan’s Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, as well as highways to link it to China’s largely undeveloped west, including Xinjiang. China is also building four Pakistani naval frigates and in January the countries began joint production of a jet fighter plane.
While China welcomes Musharraf this week, it also is building ties with the political parties that formed Pakistan’s new coalition government, said Muhammad Mehdi, a foreign liaison official with the anti-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League.