China seeks military bases in Pakistan

Islamabad: China has expressed an interest in setting up military bases in Pakistan`s volatile tribal area or the Northern Areas, close to the restive Chinese province of Xinjiang, to counter the activities of extremists, according to a media report today. The Chinese desire is aimed at containing the growing terrorist activities of Chinese rebels of the al-Qaeda-linked East Turkestan Islamic Movement, The News daily quoted diplomatic sources as saying. The Chinese rebels want an independent Islamic state and are reportedly being trained in Pakistan`s tribal areas.

China`s wish to have a military presence in Pakistan was discussed at length by the political and military leadership of both countries in recent months as Beijing has become more concerned about the Pakistan`s tribal belt serving as a haven for radicals, the report said.

"Beijing believes that similar to the American military presence in Pakistan, a Chinese presence would enable its military to effectively counter the Muslim separatists who had been operating from the tribal areas of Pakistan for almost a decade and carrying out cross-border terrorist activities in the trouble-stricken Xinjiang Province," the report said.

There were three high-profile visits from Pakistan to China in recent months by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, President Asif Ali Zardari and Inter-Services Intelligence agency chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

The Pakistani visits were reciprocated by a visit to Islamabad by Chinese Vice Premier Meng Jianzhu. This visit was prompted by two bomb blasts in Kashgar city of Xinjiang on July 30 and 31 that killed 18 people, the report said.