PAK-CHINA MILITARY COOPERATION
Jan 17 - 23, 2011
Pak-China military relationship has been a perpetual source of concern to Pakistan's regional and global adversaries. This relationship, anyway, augurs well for a much-needed, sustained balance of power in the Asian region where India, with overt support of Israel and more often than not covert support of United States, stands to destabilize Pakistan and harm China.
The geo-strategic position of Pakistan acts as a powerful deterrent against anti-Pakistan forces. This strategic factor alone has always stood in the way of completion of the vicious triangle of India, Israel, and the US. The timing of the crucial global events has also come to the rescue of Pakistan, more than once. The proxy Afghanistan war triggered by behind-the-scene active involvement of the US provided a cover to Pakistan to pursue its efforts to go nuclear. The West and the US, although in full knowledge of Pakistan's uranium enrichment program, failed to react as they thought that to ambush and bleed USSR in Afghanistan was far more important. The three successive US presidents, Regan, Bush and Clinton strived to keep the US aid to Pakistan flowing even at the cost of lying to the Congress.
When India and Israel colluded to make a preemptive strike against Pakistan's nuclear facilities at Kahuta, it was US that came to the rescue of Pakistan by tipping it off at the right moment. The RAW-Mossad threat was effectively defused when Pakistan's President Zia delivered a counter threat to the Indian premier. Later on, when the democrats were contemplating to tighten noose around Pakistan, another turn of events saved the day for Pakistan. Republicans coming back into power in 2001, and the 9/11 attacks that followed, put Pakistan back to its position of strategic US ally, this time against the war on terror.
While Pak-US relationship has been guided by the US interests, Pak-China relationship has remained free of earthly goals and objectives. Not goaded by expansionist programs, in sharp contrast to US, China remains preoccupied with its economic progress and internal security leaving little room for the external forces to hatch plans and attacks against its nation. US policies, based mostly on aggressive agenda focusing on world resource position and US future needs, demand combative actions against world nations. This, besides increasing the number of US enemies, necessitates the development of a strong and reliable ally-base. Pakistan stands to benefit from this position of global uncertainty by virtue of its strategic location, but the benefits are mostly of short-term nature.
The alternate bouts of inflows and outflows of US dollars produce an injurious effect on Pakistan's economic health. They have made its economic future as uncertain as its relationship with the US. On the other hand, Chinese economic assistance flow over the years has been uninterrupted and purposeful.
On military front too, China has been as generous and bountiful as in economic matters. While it is not possible to have full knowledge of the entire gamut of Chinese military assistance to Pakistan as a lot remains buried in 'classified' files, the following major contributions made by China can be highlighted:
* In 1978, Pakistan got financial and technical assistance for developing Karakoram Highway, linking Northern Pakistan and Western China. This infrastructure up-gradation was highly significant from military standpoint.
* In 1980, China joined hands with United States to extend military assistance to Pakistan to combat USSR threat in Afghanistan.
* In 1986, China and Pakistan signed an agreement for nuclear cooperation. Although meant to boost Pakistan's nuclear energy capability for civil purposes, the implications of the agreement were more military than economic as Pakistan was at the threshold of becoming a nuclear power.
* In 2001, the military joint venture for producing MBT-200 tanks (Al-Khaled) was completed and production started.
* In 2007, China became the biggest arms supplier to Pakistan. Sino-Pak joint venture to produce multirole fighter JF-17 Thunder was successfully completed.
* In 2008, Pakistan started mass production of JF-17. The same year, China warned US of entering Pakistani territory to fulfill its 'hot pursuit' designs.
* In 2009, Pakistan Navy inducted in its fleet the first F-22p frigate, PNS-Zulfiqar, manufactured with the help of China
* In 2010, Pakistan and China took part in a joint military exercise aimed at combating terrorism. The same year China helped Pakistan with four military rescue helicopters for use in flood-rescue operations.
The list of joint ventures and military cooperation might go still farther to include K8 aircrafts, AWACS, space technology, Babur missiles etc. The Pak-China relationship, unique and enviable for any other nation, is well explained by the following words of General K.M. Arif reproduced in Deception, a book written by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark: 'Outwardly we are very different. They are a godless society with no free markets or elections. But, I cannot think of a single incident over the last fifty years where China interfered in the internal politics of Pakistan or vice versa. China gave freely with no strings. No money was paid for the assistance until President Zia went to China in 1977 and said, "We are grateful but we should be charged." China said, "No Mr. President, we cannot forget the assistance you gave us when we were out of the UN. We were alone and you helped us".'
In Deception - essentially a diatribe against Pakistan's nuclear effort and its nuclear hero Dr. A. Q Khan - an attempt at sizing up the Pak-China relationship has been made in the following words: 'The obfuscation concealed from the world Pakistan's cold-testing of a nuclear bomb in 1983 and the devastating intelligence that Pakistan had hot-tested as well, in 1984, with the help of China. The Pakistan-China nuclear relationship was also buried by Reagan's officials, including Beijing's gift to Islamabad of bomb blueprints, radioactive isotopes, and technical assistance without bounds. In return, US companies won deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Chinese nuclear power contractors.'
Finally, the following quote from Deception may help one to fathom the depth of Pak-China relationship: "US intelligence made another stark discovery. China had also shipped to Pakistan samples of weapons-grade enriched uranium to fuel a nuclear bomb if General Zia signaled he was ready to test before Khan had manufactured enough fissile material at Kahuta. Exactly how much highly enriched uranium Pakistan had received was unclear, but senior intelligence sources in the US and Israel confirmed that they thought that China had given Pakistan enough for two devices."