Pakistan and China are expected to sign a civil nuclear agreement during President Asif Ali Zardari's maiden state visit to the Communist nation, the country's envoy to Beijing said on Tuesday.
Both countries have always supported the peaceful use of civil nuclear energy and an agreement in this connection is expected to be signed during the President's visit to China which began Tuesday, Ambassador Masood Khan said. The two countries will ink several agreements in the fields of technology, agriculture and minerals. They will also sign an investment protocol to their existing free trade agreement to boost investments in Pakistan, he told Geo News channel.
Though Khan did not give details of the proposed civil nuclear pact, official sources were quoted by The Nation newspaper as saying that a nuclear deal with China would be the "main item" on Zardari's agenda. An official told the newspaper that Zardari would seek a nuclear deal with China to meet Pakistan's increasing energy needs.
"What we need from our Chinese friends is the building of new nuclear reactors with their help and indications are already there that they will not disappoint us," the official said. The government led by Zardari's Pakistan People's Party is under pressure from domestic political circles to seek a civil nuclear deal with China to match the pact finalised between India and the US.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has urged the US to extend a similar deal to Pakistan and called on the world community not to discriminate between Pakistan and India in this regard.
Recent reports have suggested that Pakistan will seek help from China for establishing a satellite communications system and building two more atomic reactors at its Chashma nuclear project. The project already has two power plants built with Chinese assistance. The two proposed nuclear reactors are expected to cost over Rs 139 billion. Experts believe only an 'all-weather ally' like China could assist Pakistan in the nuclear sector at a time when the country is grappling with a crippling economic crunch.
The first nuclear reactor at the Chashma site now generates 300 MW of electricity and the second reactor is currently being completed. The two new reactors are expected to be completed in eight years. Pakistan also plans to set up a nuclear power fuel complex at a cost of over Rs 51 billion to fabricate fuel to be used in future nuclear power plants. Pakistani officials have said the country needs nuclear fuel technology from China to fabricate fuel locally. Under its Energy Security Action Plan, Pakistan aims to increase the share of nuclear power from one per cent to 5.4 per cent by creating the capacity to generate 8,800 MW of nuclear energy by 2030.