ISLAMABAD, Nov 23, 2006 (AFP) – Chinese President Hu Jintao promised a new era of cooperation with Pakistan Thursday as he arrived for a visit that will include the signing of a free trade accord with Beijing’s closest ally. Hu received a lavish ceremonial welcome for his four-day visit, the first in a decade by a Chinese leader, which is aimed at reassuring the Islamic republic of his support despite warming ties with Pakistan’s rival India.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz personally greeted Hu and his wife at Chaklala Airbase near Islamabad after they flew in from Mumbai following a landmark three-day visit.
Soldiers fired off a 21-gun salute for the Chinese leader and huge red banners showing Hu and his Pakistani counterpart were strung up around the normally staid capital Islamabad and along the route from the airport.
“I am visiting Pakistan to deepen friendship, expand cooperation and plan for the future of our relationship,” Hu said in an arrival statement, adding that the visit would “usher in a new stage of China-Pakistan relations.”
Hu said he looked forward to having an “in depth exchange of views” with Musharraf and other Pakistani leaders on “bilateral rela