‘Iron Brothers’ China and Pakistan Hold Defense, Security Talks

Among other things, Beijing and Islamabad agreed to “safeguard the security of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.”

Irshad Salim — General Fang Fenghui, member of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) and chief of the Joint Staff Department under the CMC, and General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Pakistani chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), met in Beijing on June 15 to exchange views on international and regional security situations and to discuss deepening military ties between the two countries — President Xi Jinping calls them ‘Iron Brothers’.

It is the 12th round of defense and security talks held by China and Pakistan, according to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces, and comes on the heel of recent Chinese offer to mediate between Afghanistan and Pakistan for the sake of regional security marred by uptick in terror-related incidents in the former.

China’s Ministry of Defense reported on Wednesday that the talks “achieved positive results.” Fang noted that “bilateral military relations between the two countries have maintained a healthy and stable development momentum.”

In detail, the Chinese general said that the People’s Liberation Army “will promote the development of the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism in Counter Terrorism by Afghanistan-China-Pakistan-Tajikistan Armed Forces, elevate the level of cooperation between the two militaries and jointly maintain the security and stable development of the region,” the Chinese defense ministry reports.

Fang also highlighted the “in-depth and pragmatic cooperation in the areas of high-level contacts, joint training, weapons and equipment, [and] anti-terrorism operations.”

The Pakistani military and the People’s Liberation Army regularly engage in joint military drills. For example, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) last held a joint training exercise in April 2016.

Furthermore, the Pakistan Navy held its biannually-held multinational AMAN 2017 naval exercise in February, which included three warships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). In October 2016, the Pakistan Army and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also conducted a two-week long joint counterterrorism/special operations forces exercise, dubbed YOUYI-VI 2016.

China and Pakistan have also been jointly been developing the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex/Chengdu Aerospace Corporation (PAC/CAC) JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft. The PAF plans to induct 150 JF-17 combat aircraft in the coming years, split into three production blocks. Pakistan produces 58 percent of the airframe and China 42 percent. The JF-17 was specifically developed to replace the PAF’s Dassault Mirage III/5 fighter jets by 2o20.

China is also supporting Pakistan’s ballistic missile program. According to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly‘s: China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC), a state-owned defense export firm, made the 16 wheeler transporter erector launcher (TEL) for Pakistan’s Shaheen-III missile. Pakistan is believed to have taken delivery of the TELs at the end of February or in early March 2016. The source also said that Pakistan’s National Engineering and Scientific Commission has set up an assembly line at the Punjab-based National Development Complex to assemble TELs for Pakistani missiles.

Moreover, in 2016, China Shipbuilding Trading Company (CSTC) and Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KSEW) concluded an agreement for the construction of six new maritime patrol vessels for the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) with four ships to be built in China and the remaining two in Pakistan.

China also agreed to sell Pakistan eight modified diesel-electric attack submarines by 2028, although it remains unclear what type of boats will be delivered. “The majority of analysts speculate that the new submarine will be a lighter export version of the People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)’s Type 039 and Type 041 Yuan-class conventional attack submarine, excluding the sub’s AIP [air-independent propulsion] system, which might be procured independently,” the author explained in August 2016.

Fang also underlined that both countries will jointly safeguard the security of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Chinese personnel. Earlier reports had said providing CPEC related security was entirely Pakistan’s responsibility.

Already in February 2016, Pakistan announced that it will create special force of 15,000 troops ( 9,000 Pakistan Army soldiers and 6,000 para-military forces personnel) to protect Chinese workers and industries along the CPEC. China is slated to invest $62 billion in Pakistan in the coming years in various sectors of the Pakistan economy, energy and infrastructure.

Beijing has dismissed as “irresponsible” an annual US Defense Department report that predicted China would expand its global military presence, building overseas bases in countries like Pakistan.

“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the Pentagon report said.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a regular briefing earlier this month that China “is firmly opposed” to aspects of the publication.

“We have noted the report released by the US which made irresponsible remarks about China´s national defense development in disregard of the facts,” Hua said, declining to comment on “speculation” and noting that the “friendly cooperation (between China and Pakistan) does not target any third party”.

Last week, three warships of the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) arrived at Karachi port for a goodwill and training visit, a statement released by the Pakistan Navy said.

The PLAN ships, Chang Chun, Jing Zhou and Chao Hu are part of a task group commanded by Deputy Commander East Sea Fleet Rear Admiral Shen Hao.

The statement added the visiting task group will also hold a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with Pakistan Navy ships to enhance interoperability between the two navies.

The men and officers of the visiting ships will be holding professional discussions and interactions with their compatriots from the PN on subjects of mutual interest, the statement said.

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah visited the flotilla and said, “Pak-China friendship is highly valued and the continued cooperation between them has proven to be a source of strength for both the countries.” He added that the visit is “expected to enhance interoperability and maritime collaboration between the two navies”.

China and Pakistan have been cooperating to augment littoral security in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) specific to CPEC and anti-piracy efforts.

(Based on reports in South China Morning Post, China Military, The Diplomat and The News)

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