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China offers Pakistan an alternative future.

Posted by yourpakistan on January 9, 2011

Beijing’s defence trade relationship with Islamabad is giving the South Asian country the chance to develop its own industrial base. Farhan Bokhari reports

Jane’s Defence Weekly

China is continuing to deepen its already close military ties with Pakistan as it seeks to retain a key role as a partner of a country that the United States also boasts as a close ally.

While the US and other Western powers focus on China’s growing military presence in the Pacific and the implications for the security of Japan and the Korean Peninsula, Beijing is quietly building on its ties with Islamabad in an apparent step to expand its long-term role in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

China’s partnership with Pakistan dates back to the 1960s when China sold the first batch of its fighter aircraft to Pakistan after Islamabad was placed under sanctions by the US following its military clash with India in 1965.

Beijing now appears to be assisting Pakistan in increasingly becoming an indigenous producer of conventional hardware – in sharp contrast to Pakistan’s ties with the US, which are seldom based on transfer of advanced technology.

At least two factors appear to be driving this trend. While Pakistan’s influential army is keen to seek advanced US weapons, it remains wary of prospects for a long-term partnership with the US, especially in view of Washington’s developing ties with India as well as Pakistan’s clash of interests with the US on Afghanistan.

Besides, notable advancements by China in manufacturing military hardware such as fighter aircraft and naval platforms have armed Beijing with growing self-confidence over its ability to broaden its reach beyond its immediate borders.

For China, offering support to Pakistan to further build up Islamabad’s air combat and naval capabilities ensures that Beijing’s area of influence within the IOR is indirectly widened while also countering India’s development as a key Asian military power.

Meanwhile, scepticism in Pakistan towards the US was highlighted on 30 November 2010 when The Dawn , a Pakistani English-language newspaper, quoted an unnamed top military official as saying that Pakistan “has transited from the most sanctioned ally [in the 1990s] to the most bullied ally” of the US.

Many in Pakistan remember the 1990s as a period when the US withheld the deliveries of F-16 fighter aircraft on the grounds that Islamabad was embarking on a nuclear weapon programme. These deliveries continued to be blocked even though Pakistan had made partial payments under an agreed contract.

The feeling of being the “most bullied ally” came in a year that saw the US maintain pressure on Pakistan, urging Islamabad to launch a robust military campaign against Islamic militants in the north Waziristan region along the border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani military has so far refused to open a new front until it is certain of launching a campaign that contains the insurgents within that area rather than allowing them to retaliate through attacks on key government and other targets.

However, the US agreed a USD2 billion military aid package with Pakistan in October 2010 to support counter-terrorism activities.

At the same time, recent signs of China’s enthusiasm to meet Pakistan’s defence needs were reiterated during a visit to Islamabad by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao in December 2010. In a joint communiqué issued after the visit the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to further military co-operation.

“The two sides agreed to step up personnel training, joint exercises, training and co-operation for national defence, science and technology and collaboration in defence production. The two sides also agreed to give further impetus to maritime security co-operation,” said the communiqué.

Ahead of Wen’s visit, Pakistan’s navy signed a new contract for the purchase of two missile craft, each displacing 500 tonnes. One of the vessels is planned to be built at a shipyard in China, while the other will be built at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW): Pakistan’s main naval shipyard.

The agreement appears to be a follow up to an earlier contract for China to supply four of its F-22P frigates to Pakistan alongside a batch of Z-9C helicopters. One frigate is presently under construction at the KSEW while the other three have been handed over to the Pakistan Navy.

Senior Pakistani government officials have said the two countries are considering further naval contracts including deals for frigates that are larger than the F-22Ps and possibly China’s first foreign sale of a submarine.

On other fronts the JF-17 Thunder multirole combat aircraft, which is produced jointly by the air force (PAF)-run Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) at Kamra, north of Islamabad, and China, made its first international appearance at the Farnborough Air Show in 2010. The JF-17 is dubbed by Pakistani officials as “an ideal model of Sino-Pak co-operation”.

With China’s assistance, by the end of 2011 Pakistan expects to manufacture just below 60 per cent of the JF-17’s components in a significant push to move this project towards a largely domestic production capability. Meanwhile, China has helped Pakistan to manufacture its Al-Khalid main battle tank for the army and has delivered the first of four ZDK-03 airborne early warning and control aircraft to the air force.

Pakistan’s senior government officials have maintained that closer ties with China will not come at the expense of the country’s ambition to work for close relations with the US and other members of the NATO alliance.

“We are not even remotely looking to turn away from the US. Relations with China are based on our need to fill important gaps that are vital for our security interests,” one senior Pakistani government official told Jane’s . However, with signs of tension appearing in Washington’s relationship with Islamabad over Afghanistan and the situation in north Waziristan, it is likely that the perception of China as a “trusted friend” by Pakistan’s decision makers will continue to promote prospects for long-term co-operation.

Farhan Bokhari is a JDW Correspondent, based in Islamabad



One Response to “China offers Pakistan an alternative future.”

  1. smith said

    pakistan is becomin isreal of china. a failed terrorist state

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