The two nations made an announcement this Thursday, purportedly concerning the sale of 8 submarines from Beijing to Islamabad.
Analysts claim that the deal is the largest defense agreement China has made with a foreign country. Details about the multi-billion dollar deal are lacking, and government officials did not confirm the amount of money involved.
Provisional deal agreed on defense cooperation
Despite a vague statement released by Pakistani officials, the composition of the Chinese delegation suggests that the deal is an important one.
“Pakistan and China have reached an understanding on matters of defense cooperation relating to Pakistan Navy,” said Pakistan’s Finance Ministry following a meeting with the Chinese. “Financial arrangements to this effect were also concluded.”
In April, the defense ministry briefed the Pakistani parliament on a potential deal to acquire Chinese submarines. The Financial Times ran a report later that month citing a retired senior official who claimed that the deal could be worth $4-5 billion.
Finance Ministry sources stated that payments would be made in 4 installments, and the submarines will be delivered over the next few years. Terms were agreed between Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Xu Ziqin, President of Chinese state-owned China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Company Limited (CSOC).
CSOC is part of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), which manufactures, repairs, leases and sells military vessels.
Vague press release short on details
Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong also attended the talks, alongside Pakistani Finance Secretary Waqar Masood and Economic Affairs Secretary Saleem Sethi. Although an agreement was reached, it must still be approved by officials in Beijing. Once they do so, a formal agreement will be signed.
As a result, the subsequent press release was short on details. Finance Minister Dar said that the visit of the Chinese delegation would strengthen ties between the two nations.
Rumors of a submarine deal have been heard since Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan in April. According to India Today, Pakistan has been negotiating the sale of Chinese submarines since 2011, and although no details have been specified, the publication reports that Yuan-class Type-041 diesel-electric submarines were under consideration.
IHS Jane’s Fighting Ships describes the Yuan class as a diesel electric attack submarine.
Further evidence of strong ties between Pakistan and China
The press release included a quote from Xu in which he thanked Dar for his involvement in the negotiations, and held them up as an example of the strong friendship between the two nations.
Further evidence is provided by the signing of last month’s agreement for the construction of six patrol vessels for the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA). Four ships are to be built in China, and two more constructed in Karachi, under the terms of an agreement signed by Pakistan’s defense production ministry and the China Ship Trading Company (CSTC).
Pakistan and China enjoy a close relationship which makes Beijing the biggest supplier of military hardware to Islamabad. The two nations also work together to manufacture the J-17 Thunder warplane.
The sale of 8 attack submarines is sure to be a concern to Pakistan’s historic enemy, India. Politicians in New Delhi are growing increasingly alarmed at increased Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean, and new Chinese-built Pakistani submarines provide another headache for India.
Will deal affect Pakistan-India relations?
Relations between India and Pakistan looked to be improving following the meeting of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Russia. However a spate of firing along the Line of Control, and the shooting down of an alleged Indian spy drone, have caused increased tensions.
It had been hoped that the accession of both nations to the SCO would improve relations in the interest of regional prosperity, but it seems that there is a long way to go.
Close cooperation between the two countries has previously provoked opposition from India. A proposed economic corridor from China through Pakistani-held Kashmir was denounced by Modi, concerned by huge Chinese investment in an area which India claims as its own.
This week, Pakistan’s envoy to New Delhi said that relations between the two nations should move from “confrontation to cooperation.” Abdul Baisit was speaking during an Eid Milan hosted at the Pakistani high commission.
“All problems between our countries, including Jammu and Kashmir, must be resolved through talks. Pakistan will leave no stone unturned to improve ties,” he said.
If India can demonstrate its commitment to talks, there may still be hope for lasting peace between the two nations. It must be hoped that past conflicts can be resolved in order for both nations to concentrate on social and economic factors.