Pakistan, China kick off joint military exercise!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Pakistan and China have showcased their all-weather friendship with the launch of one of the biggest joint military exercises in decades. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations, the war games that began on April 11 near Jhelum followed speculation over whether China will step in to fill the economic, military and diplomatic void if Pakistan’s relationship with the US further deteriorated.
This exercise is the fourth in a series in which Special Forces from both sides will participate. The two-week-long exercises are aimed at “mutual exchange of experience and information through a comprehensive training programme in real time”.
The exercise which will enhance bilateral relationship and capability of the air forces of the two friendly neighbours, saw participation of three different types of frontline fighter aircraft belonging to various PAF squadrons for the first time, said Air Commodore Syed Muhammad Ali, official spokesperson for Pakistan Air Force. PAF has been a regular participant in a number of international air exercises with various air forces, including the US Air Force (USAF), Italian Air Force, Turkish Air Force and other allied countries. The spokesman said Pakistan and China enjoy very close relationship spanning over six decades.
Pakistan and China began on April 14 their fifth joint air exercise, Shaheen-V, at an operational base in Pakistan. A contingent of People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) comprising combat pilots, air defence controllers and technical ground crew and a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) contingent are participating in the exercises. The last such exercise between Pakistan and China – Shaheen-IV was conducted in Beijing in October 2015.
The strategic partnership has been further strengthened through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, infrastructure development and routine joint military exercises. The Pakarmy termed the exercise a “true manifestation of a famous Chinese phrase that Pakistan-China friendship is higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans.”
This is the first time that brigade-level war games are being staged by Pakistan and China and it reflected long-term engagement between the two countries.
It was the fourth joint military exercise between the two countries since 2004. The exercises come amid sharp digs at Pakistan from US Republican presidential hopefuls during a debate held. A leading US Presidential candidate described Pakistan as nearly a failed state while another suggested Washington cut foreign aid to Pakistan to zero. However, both Islamabad and Beijing have dismissed suggestions that their war games are aimed against any country.
General (retd) Talat Masood went as far as to suggest that he was hopeful that “one day Pakistan and India would conduct similar war games together.” An American diplomat, contacted to give his view on the matter, played down the development saying the US had no concerns over the growing friendship between Pakistan and China.
China–Pakistan relations began in 1950 when Pakistan was among the first countries to end official diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan and recognize the PRC. Since then, both countries have placed considerable importance on the maintenance of an extremely close and supportive relationship and the two countries have regularly exchanged high-level visits resulting in a variety of agreements. The PRC has provided economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan and each considers the other a close strategic ally.
Bilateral relations have evolved from an initial Chinese policy of neutrality to a partnership with a smaller but militarily powerful Pakistan. Diplomatic relations were established in 1950, military assistance began in 1966, a strategic alliance was formed in 1972 and economic co-operation began in 1979. China has become Pakistan’s largest supplier of arms and its third-largest trading partner. Recently, both nations have decided to cooperate in improving Pakistan’s civil nuclear power sector.
According to Pew Research Center in 2014, Pakistanis have the most favorable view of China after China itself. Maintaining close relations with China is a central part of Pakistan’s foreign policy. China supported Pakistan’s opposition to the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan and is perceived by Pakistan as a regional counterweight to NATO and the United States.] In addition, Pakistan was one of only two countries, alongside Cuba, to offer crucial support for the PRC in after the Tiananmen protests of 1989. China and Pakistan also share close military relations, with China supplying a range of modern armaments to the Pakistani defense forces. China supports Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir while Pakistan supports China on the issues of Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan. Military cooperation has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates.
Chinese cooperation with Pakistan has reached economic high points, with substantial Chinese investment in Pakistani infrastructural expansion including the Pakistani deep-water port at Gwadar. Both countries have an ongoing free trade agreement. Pakistan has served as China’s main bridge between Muslim countries. Pakistan also played an important role in bridging the communication gap between China and the West by facilitating the 1972 Nixon visit to China. The relations between Pakistan and China have been described by Pakistan’s ambassador to China as higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight, sweeter than honey, and so on. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Pakistan is China’s biggest arms buyer, counting for nearly 47% of Chinese arms exports. According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 75% of Pakistanis view China’s influence positively with only 15% expressing a negative view. In the Asia Pacific region, Chinese people hold third most positive opinions of Pakistan’s influence in the world, behind Indonesia and Pakistan itself.
While initially ambivalent towards the idea of a Communist country on its borders, Pakistan hoped that China would serve as a counterweight to Indian influence. India had recognized China a year before, and Indian Prime Minister Nehru also hoped for closer relations with the Chinese. However, with escalating border tensions leading to the 1962 Sino-Indian war, China and Pakistan aligned with each other in a joint effort to counter Indian encroachment. One year after China’s border war with India, Pakistan ceded the Trans-Karakoram Tract to China to end border disputes and improve diplomatic relations.
Since then, an informal alliance that initially consisted of joint Indian opposition has grown into a lasting relationship that has benefited both nations on the diplomatic, economic and military frontiers. Along with diplomatic support, Pakistan served as a conduit for China to open up to the West. China has in turn provided extensive economic aid and political support to Pakistan. Since the two sides established their “all-weather diplomatic relations”, there have been frequent exchanges between the two countries’ leadership and peoples.
Since Sept 11 hoax, Pakistan has increased the scope of Chinese influence and support by agreeing to a number of military projects, combined with extensive economic support and investment from the Chinese. The strong military ties primarily aim to counter regional Indian and American influence, and was also to repel Soviet influence in the area. In recent years this relationship has strengthened through ongoing military projects and agreements between Pakistan and China.
Since 1962, China has been a steady source of military equipment to the Pakistani Army, helping establish munition factories, providing technological assistance and modernizing existing facilities.
On 20 April 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan as his first foreign visit of the year, also the first by a Chinese president in 9 years. Pakistan’s military initially depended almost entirely on American armaments and aid, which was increased during the covert U.S. support of Islamic militants in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. America under US President Richard Nixon supported Pakistan in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. However, the period following the Soviet withdrawal and the dissolution of the Soviet Union led indirectly to the increasing realignment of America with the previously pro-Soviet India. With the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, there is a general sentiment in Pakistan to adopt a foreign policy which favors China over the United States. Washington has been accused deserting Pakistan in favor of a policy that favors stronger relations with India, while Pakistan sees China as a more reliable ally over the long term.
China is the largest investor in Pakistan’s Gwadar Deep Sea Port, which is strategically located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz. It is viewed warily by both America and India as a possible launchpad for the Chinese Navy, giving them the ability to launch submarines and warships in the Indian Ocean. China has recently pledged to invest nearly US 43 billion dollars. China and Pakistan are involved in several projects to enhance military and weaponry systems, which include the joint development of the JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, K-8 Karakorum advance training aircraft, etc.
Currently, sixty percent of China’s oil must be transported by ship from the Persian Gulf to the only commercial port in China, Shanghai, a distance of more than 16,000 kilometres. The journey takes two to three months, during which time the ships are vulnerable to pirates, bad weather, political rivals and other risks. Using Gwadar port instead would reduce the distance and possibly the cost.
The relationship has recently been the subject of renewed attention due to the publication of a new book, The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics, which is the first extensive treatment of the relationship since the 1970s.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Foreign Office said on April 14 that more RAW agents had been arrested and further details about them will be shared soon.
There have been attempts by USA and India to create a wedge in China-Pakistan ties, particularly in military sphere but the bilateral relations, known as all-weather ones, have been steadily developing, in fact in a big way. In fact one of the objectives of Asia pivot of USA is to contain china and its relationships with a number of countries, like Pakistan and coerce India to support US interests in the region. India is doing the job well but not to the full satisfaction of Washington which, after selling terror goods to Islamabad, also coerces New Delhi to hurriedly purchase the latest weaponry and other terror items that Pakistan already has in its arsenal.
Governments are wasting national resources on terror goods by terrorizing the humanity first.