ONCE again, Pakistan and China have reaffirmed their strategic partnership in challenging times and agreed to continue the regular exchange of perspectives on issues of mutual interest.
The tri-service military delegation of Pakistan under the auspices of COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited China from June 9 to 12 where it held wide-ranging strategic discussions with senior officials of the Chinese military and other government departments, according to a statement by the ISPR, Pakistan have agreed to step up their defence and counter-terrorism cooperation amidst “challenging times.
” The military-to-military relations, serving as the mainstay of China-Pakistan friendship, have played an important role in the development of bilateral relations for a long time, said Senior Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defence.
Both sides also vowed to enhance their training, technology and counterterrorism cooperation at tri-service level Pakistan and China are heading towards a new era of long-term strategic partnership — based on military cooperation — which has included different types of cooperation in different fields—their strategic cooperation has very significant impact on regional and international security.
Pakistan-China Joint Military Cooperation Committee (PCJMCC) has an apex committee.
Pakistan’s army chief and vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission are part of the committee.
Military diplomacy and military-to-military cooperation has always touched heights in friendly and strategic relations between Beijing and Islamabad.
Pakistan-China strategic partnership – all-weather friendship is higher than the mountains, deeper than the ocean, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey, The COAS, General Bajwa who stayed in China for one day, has been the only military leader who visited China on the invitation of the Chinese President.
Pakistan’s relationship with China is usually described in the prism of national interests—largely warranted by regional security architecture and economic imperatives.
Arguably this narrative is justifiable in the backdrop of the emergence of Pakistan as a nascent state in search of security in a hostile neighbourhood.
Therefore, a good relationship with China in the given scenario, became an inevitable rational choice for Pakistan’s political and security establishment.
Despite the fact that maintaining a perpetually friendly relationship with China has been a cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy, yet strengthening this relationship into a structured partnership has indeed been a gradual process.
In December 2015, China confirmed that it is building six nuclear power plants in Pakistan under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards with a total capacity of 3.4 million kW (CRSS, 2015).
The China-Pakistan military relationship got a new impetus during the era of General Raheel Sharif, as well as that of the present COAS, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The Pakistani Air Force recently held a ceremony for receiving the Chinese J-10CE fighter jets, and that as commented by the Chinese military official colonel Wu, “the China-made aircraft’’ would play an important role in correcting the “security imbalance” in the region.
Wu emphasized that China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners, true friends and iron brothers that share weal and woe.
He reiterated that China is willing to work with Pakistan to accelerate the construction of a closer China-Pakistan community of shared destiny in the new era.
Militarily, on the Afghan issue, the two sides—Beijing and Islamabad agreed that a “peaceful, stable, united, safe and secure Afghanistan” was important for prosperity and development of the region and agreed to keep “close cooperation on Afghanistan in the future.
Moreover, both countries “underscored the need to expedite humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and its people to avert the looming crisis” and also renewed calls to unfreeze Afghan cash assets frozen internationally.
The joint stance on Afghanistan shows that Pakistan’s position on Afghanistan is very much acknowledged by China.
Both sides should be expected to cooperate more closely in the coming months to tackle issues of militancy emanating from Afghanistan.
Moreover, Islamabad has directed tremendous resources and manpower to protect Chinese nationals in the country, even raising a military force of 15,000 personnel to secure CPEC projects.
But terrorist groups have exploited gaps in security arrangements for Chinese nationals in Pakistan, targeting those who enjoy less restrictive security outside the CPEC framework.
Islamabad’s heavy-handed response to the Balochistan insurgency over the past two decades has only served to broaden its reach into educated Baloch middle class.
China and Pakistan discussed their perspectives on international and regional security situation, and expressed satisfaction on defence cooperation between the two countries.
According to statement, “Pakistan and China reaffirmed their strategic partnership in challenging times and agreed to continue regular exchange of perspectives on issues of mutual interest.
Both sides also vowed to enhance their training, technology and counterterrorism cooperation at tri-service level,” it added.
Since 2017, both the militaries are continuously engaged in joint military training.
The air force of the two countries conducted a 20-day joint training exercise “Shaheen-VI” in China in September last year.
Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17 Thunder, Mirage, F-7PG and ZDK aircraft along with PLA Air Force J-8, J-11, JH-7 and KJ-200 AWACS aircraft and ground forces, including surface-to-air missile and radar troops took part in the exercise.
The current entry— of J-10C air jets—has revitalized the status of Pakistan airpower.
Last year, China delivered its largest and most advanced warship to Pakistan as it seeks to beef up the navy of its all-weather ally in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, where it has increased its own naval presence in recent years.
Designed and built by China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited (CSSC), the frigate was delivered to the Pakistan Navy in a commissioning ceremony in Shanghai, the CSSC announced in a statement.
In January, Islamabad received first batch of Chinese manufactured vehicle mounted howitzers to counter the Indian K-9 Vajra howitzers
Beijing is also providing NORINCO AR-1 300 mm multi barrel rocket launchers to Rawalpindi so that the Pakistan Army has a reply to Indian rocket launchers.
The total contract worth is around USD 512 million.
In addition, the supply of conventional weapon systems, fighter aircraft, destroyers and even the inclination to give DF-17 hypersonic missile to counter India’s latest acquisition, the S-400 air defence system, are all part of Beijing’s long strategy to keep Pakistan military well equipped with modern war weaponry.
In February, Pakistan’s military officials attended an international military medicine forum in Beijing hosted by Chinese military.
“Military medical experts from more than 10 countries, including Russia, Serbia and Pakistan, as well as from International Committee of the Red Cross, have been invited to attend the forum, to be held both online and offline, said Tan Kefei, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defence”.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.