Boom in Chinese arms to Pakistan, with sights set on India
Fighter jets and a frigate have been delivered,the possible arrival of eight submarines pending. In 10 years, China has sold almost US$ 6 billion worth of armaments to the Pakistanis. Beijing is exploiting the war in Ukraine, and the US distraction, to advance in South Asia. Border tensions with Delhi remain.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - With the common rival India in its sights, China has increased its arms sales to Pakistan. Relations between the two countries continue to expand, beyond economic cooperation to the development of the Belt and Road Initiative, Xi Jinping's mega-infrastructure project to further China's global influence.
In a meeting on 22 March with Pakistani Premier Imran Khan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that within its capabilities Beijing "stands ready to provide assistance within its capacity for Pakistan to overcome difficulties and recover its economy". For his part, according to the Chinese communiqué, the leader of Islamabad expressed the hope of achieving common achievements and cooperating "in all areas".
China is Pakistan's leading arms supplier. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has calculated that between 2012 and 2021 Beijing has sold Pakistan nearly 6 billion dollars worth of arms, with a peak last year of 753 million.
This month, the Chinese delivered to the Pakistanis six J-10CE fighter jets, which the Beijing Air Force often uses for its raids near Taiwan. Islamabad added 50 JF-17 fighter jets, developed jointly with China, to its arsenal. In January, the Pakistani Navy took possession of a Chinese-built frigate. International media have revealed that Pakistan also wants to buy eight submarines from China, four of which would be built in its own shipyards.
Various observers believe China is exploiting the US distraction over Ukraine to strengthen its position in South Asia. Pakistan has always been the focus of these anti-Indian attempts: since the partition of 1947, after the end of the British colonial rule, Islamabad and Delhi have fought several wars, especially over the sovereignty over Kashmir.
China and India share a 3,488 km border in the Himalayas, over which they fought a brief but bloody conflict in 1962. Delhi claims large parts of Aksai Chin (which the Chinese obtained from Pakistan); Beijing has claims on the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Since 1975, the two armed forces have faced each other several times, often without casualties. On 15 June 2020, however, Indian and Chinese troops faced each other in the Galwan valley, between Indian Ladakh and Chinese Aksai Chin: 20 Indian soldiers died; unconfirmed sources initially spoke of 45 Chinese casualties.
After that clash, military commanders from both sides held 15 meetings to lower tensions. Little progress has been made, with the joint withdrawal of troops from three points of 'friction' along the disputed border - agreements that have not prevented further skirmishes from breaking out.
The stalemate in negotiations has led to an increasing militarisation of the Sino-Indian border. Thousands of heavily armed troops are deployed on both sides of the border. The contenders are also engaged in extending their border infrastructure to facilitate possible war operations.
It should be noted that a large part of India's weaponry is of Russian production, a condition that in the medium to long term may put a strain on the "friendship without limits" that China and Russia have forged against the US and its allies. In addition, in January the Philippines purchased three batteries of Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles, developed by India in collaboration with Russia. Vietnam and Indonesia are also among the possible buyers of the Russian-Indian projectile: Manila, Hanoi and Jakarta are contesting Beijing's territorial claims over almost the entire South China Sea.
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