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Growing Sino-Pakistan military ties ring alarm bells in India

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Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
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India Today reported on January 4, that a secret report prepared by the government's joint intelligence committee has confirmed India's worst fears - China is planning a military base in Pakistan. The paper said that the report, based on inputs from the (Indian Intelligence agency) Research and Analysis Wing, is meant for the Prime Minister, members of the cabinet committee on security and the national security adviser.

The report says China is keen to build military bases in FATA or the Northern areas while Pakistan wants to counterbalance Indian naval forces by having a naval base in Gwadar. But it does not spell out the exact location of these bases. "China's deepening strategic penetration of Pakistan and joint plans to set up oil pipelines/ rail/ roads and naval and military bases are a matter of concern," the report says.

India Today report says that it may not be politically feasible for Pakistan to openly allow China to set up military bases on its soil. But it might allow China to use its military facilities without any public announcement. According to the Indian intelligence assessment, Chinese presence in these areas might enable the People's Liberation Army to counter the Muslim separatists operating from such areas for terrorist activities in Xinjiang.

The paper claimed that the issue of Chinese bases in Pakistan was discussed during the visits of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to China and during a visit late last year of the ISI chief, Shuja Pasha, to Beijing.

The India Today report coincides with another report by a UK-based Indian-origin scholar, Harsh V. Pant in The Washington Quarterly (winter 2012) saying:

"Recent suggestions emanating from Beijing that China is likely to set up military bases overseas to counter U.S. influence and exert pressure on India have been interpreted in certain sections in New Delhi as a veiled reference to China's interest in having a permanent military presence in Pakistan.

 "Indian concerns have also risen that China and Pakistan are coordinating their efforts in regard to border issues with India. The presence of the Chinese military in the Gilgit--Baltistan area of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, purportedly to repair and upgrade the Karakoram Highway, has enormous implications for Indian security."

Tellingly, the India Today and The Washington Quarterly reports came on the eve of a five-day official visit to China by Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Kiyani. This was General Kiyani's third visit to China as cordial relations with Beijing is a pillar of Islamabad's foreign policy.

During his January 5-9 January visit General Kiyani met separately with the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, State Councilor Dai Bingguo; Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie, General Chen Bingde, PLA Chief of General Staff, and   Chen Qiufa, Administrator, State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND).  

Premier Wen Jiabao told Kiyani that Pakistani armed forces have made important contributions toward maintaining bilateral relations and boosting the China-Pakistan strategic cooperative partnership. He pledged to support stronger military exchanges and cooperation between both countries. Defense Minister Liang assured Kiyani that Beijing hopes to develop "pragmatic and effective cooperation with Pakistan in national defense arena."

The PLA Chief of General Staff, General Chen said "under the current complex and volatile regional and international situation, China and Pakistan have resolved to further consolidate and strengthen their relations in accordance with their fundamental interests." Since the future of Pakistan and China hinges on the cooperation and understanding of their young generation, therefore, during their meeting Kayani and General Chen agreed that, in future there would be "enhance exchanges of younger soldiers and officers of the two armed forces." In the field of military cooperation, General Chen assured General Kayani that, "China would like to strength military ties with Pakistan and take the existing cooperation to a new, higher level."

With Chen Qiufa, Administrator, State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), General Kiyani discussed how to consolidate existing defense industry cooperation and to explore new avenues for shared technological platforms? Projects covering joint production and defense trade have created a strong interface between the two armed forces.

China is Pakistan's largest defense supplier

In recent years, China has emerged as Pakistan's largest defense supplier, with joint projects to produce armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates.

 Pakistan 's military modernization is largely dependent on Chinese assistance, with China supplying Pakistan with short-range M-11 missiles and helping Pakistan develop the Shaheen-1 ballistic missile. In the last two decades, the two states have been actively involved in a range of joint ventures, including the JF-17 fighter aircraft used for delivering nuclear weapons, an Airborne Warning and Control System, and the Babur cruise missile.  

In a major move for its indigenous defense industry, China is supplying its most advanced homemade combat aircraft, the third-generation J-10 fighter jet, to Pakistan in a deal worth around $6 billion. Negotiations are also underway between the two for the purchase of six new submarines by Islamabad.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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