Monday, December 14, 2009

Pakistan seeks to build on bonds with China

By Farhan Bokhari

With the unveiling of Islamabad's first indigenously assembled JF-17 aircraft, Pakistan and China are keen to demonstrate their bonds. Farhan Bokhari reports

Framed under a larger-than-life portrait of the first JF-17 Chinese- built fighter aircraft painted with Chinese and Pakistani flags, which flew into Pakistan last year, the unveiling of Islamabad's first indigenously assembled fighter aircraft in the same series on 23 November carried more than just symbolic value.

With both of its wings painted green - the colour of Pakistan's flag - and a yellow thunderbolt painted on each of its wings (a reminder of the JF-17's other title: 'Thunder') the roll-out from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)-run Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) marked a vital moment for Pakistan and China to highlight their carefully crafted strategic partnership.

Over the past year China has handed over eight JF-17s to the PAF, whose officials claim the PAF will be equipped with as many as 250 JF-17 fighters by the end of the next decade. Pakistan plans to build nine to 11 aircraft by June 2010, which, combined with the Chinese aircraft already delivered, will form the PAF's first squadron of JF-17s.

While Pakistan aims to seek military hardware globally, notably of US origin, for Western observers its policy-makers are showing signs of an increasingly pro-China tilt even in seeking sophisticated weapons. This is in apparent recognition of Beijing's improving capacity to build advanced weapons.

Pakistan and China are also keen to publicly demonstrate their proximity in ways seldom seen before. "[Our] friendship [with Pakistan] is higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the Arabian Sea and sweeter than honey," said Luo Zhaohui, the Chinese ambassador to Islamabad ahead of the roll-out, prompting applause from the audience.

The gathering at the PAF-run Pakistan Aeronautical complex (PAC) at Kamra, just north of Islamabad, marked the first step towards the PAF's plans to build at least 42 fighters - a stage that will see the PAC produce 58 per cent of the JF-17's parts, according to Pakistani officials.

Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, used the event to commend China for always standing by Pakistan "in our hour of need", while Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, the PAF's chief of staff, reminded the audience of the "time-tested" character of Pakistan's relations with China.

The launch of the JF-17 has taken almost 20 years since Pakistan and China first decided to jointly produce a fighter aircraft, which in the words of Pakistan's ACM Suleman, was meant to be "a low-cost, high-performance aircraft".

For Islamabad and Beijing, the defence relationship dates back to 1966 when Pakistan approached China for the first time to purchase the F-6 aircraft - the Chinese version of the Soviet MiG-19 - just a year after Islamabad was slapped with US sanctions following its war with India in 1965.

Since then, while Pakistan was sanctioned by Washington in 1990 over concerns that Islamabad was working to produce nuclear weapons, China has never delayed or withheld its promised supply of weapons. This relationship has earned Beijing a much stronger friendship with parts of Pakistan's ruling establishment than the US, which resumed its military and economic support to Islamabad after the New York terrorist attacks of September 2001.

"Pakistan trusts the Chinese much more than others. China has remained a close friend, an ally and, above all, an important emerging global power," retired Pakistan Army lieutenant general Talat Masood told Jane's.

Early in November Pakistani and Western officials confirmed that Pakistan and China had reached an understanding for Beijing to sell at least 36 of its J-10s to Islamabad. PAF officials consider the J-10 to be the most advanced among China's fighter aircraft.

Additionally, Beijing is due to supply four of its airborne early-warnings systems to the PAF within the next 12 to 18 months. In the past, China has also supplied the PAF with the K-8 trainer aircraft. Other major deals have included the go-ahead for China's sale of four F22P frigates to the Pakistan Navy and its support in the development of the Pakistan Army's Al-Khalid main battle tank.

After the ceremony on 23 November, a senior Pakistani government told Jane's that Pakistan's navy was in informal negotiations with China for the purchase of another three to four frigates, that will be larger than the F22Ps. However, he declined to give further details.

While the relationship has generally been friendly, China is known to have expressed its concerns to Pakistan from the late 1990s to the early part of this decade over Pakistani Muslim separatists teaming up with Muslim separatists from China's northern Xinjiang region.

However, Pakistani officials say China's concerns have largely been addressed after Islamabad provided assurances in 2003 that it would actively work to block any attempt by its own militants to support Chinese Muslim separatists, including the provision of arms and training.

More broadly, progress on the JF-17 and the J-10 aircraft as well as other weapon systems suggests a three-part theme clearly emerging in Sino-Pakistan relations.

First, Islamabad is continuing to seek Western arms, notably US arms, but is also eager to deepen its relations with China and work jointly on more sophisticated systems than before. This strategy appears to be driven primarily by the view that relations with partners such as the US, no matter how close on the surface, will always be prone to policy disagreements that could at least temporarily, if not permanently, halt the flow of weapons. In contrast China, with its long history of co-operating with Pakistan, will remain a reliable supplier.

Second, China's advancement as a global power and its long-term relationship with Pakistan, in the eyes of Islamabad, creates the opportunity for the country to benefit from China's future. Pakistan's policy planners see arms development co-operation leading to a relationship where Islamabad is likely to benefit from export orders, especially for Sino-Pakistani weapons. Already, Pakistani officials have pointed towards the probable price of a fighter aircraft like the JF-17 being significantly lower than an aircraft in a similar category produced by a Western manufacturer.

Finally, Pakistan's push to militarily confront Taliban militants with attacks in the northern Swat valley and the south Waziristan region near the Afghan border potentially eases some of Beijing's own concerns over Islamabad's past tolerance of Islamic hardliners, allaying fears in Beijing of parts of Islamabad's ruling establishment remaining soft on hardcore militants.

Jane's Defence Weekly


To fully realize the potential of this relationship. Pakistan Armed Forces will have to slowly move the ownership of the joint ventures to the private or public-private sector. You can see more of my thoughts on the subject at

There is no dearth of arses that pakistan will not seek to kiss.

There is no dearth of arses that India will not seek to kiss too in the rivally of pakistan but who cares let them be jelous they are good for nothing exept blaming others for their own failurs.

"There is no dearth of arses that pakistan will not seek to kiss."

That's all one can expect from you low-lifes. Its quite comical to see that although you jokers always make sure to point out how much of a beggar nation Pakistan is, regardless of this fact it continues to piss the crap out of you and all other hardcore cow-worshiping Bindus. Well, atleast enough to make you waste your time posting rubish. Keep at it Ramlal!!

many creeps in this show hate

to see pakistan flourish, we shall

prevail and be strong, inshallah

we will not give up

'There is no dearth of arses that India will not seek to kiss too..". Noop, wrong! Indians lick others asses.

Why lala is so full of sh*t? Always talking and spreading rubish like a shit-filled sock tied to a cieling fan.

indians are living at much lower life and getting much much more aid and loan than pakistanis no doubts indians are bigger and poorer beggars of the world

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