China and Russia have joined Pakistan for its multinational AMAN 2017 Naval exercise amidst the India Navy’s largest military exercise ever, involving more than 60 ships, 5 submarines and 70 aircraft. The Pakistan Navy kicked off the naval drills on February 10, with China and Russia dispatching three ships each.
The show of might between Pakistan and India comes amid heated tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. Two weeks ago, Islamabad and New Delhi engaged in saber-rattling by entering a chilling war of nuclear-capable missile tests.
The AMAN 2017, which is held biannually and involves dozens of countries, will run through February 14 — with the focus on training counterterrorism and counter-piracy operations at sea. With a total of 37 countries in participation, Russia and China have brought three ships each, while the United States dispatched four.
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Turkey, Australia, the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka and Indonesia have brought one ship each. Overall, a total of 15 ships are taking part in the naval exercises hosted this year. Japan, China’s traditional enemy, is dispatching two of its P-3C Orion aircraft.
Russia, Nigeria, Maldives and Malaysia have each dispatched Special Operations Forces detachments to participate in the military drills. AMAN 2017 is the fifth installment of Pakistan’s multinational naval drills, as Islamabad previously held naval exercises in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015.
China, Russia and Pakistan combine their naval forces
AMAN 2017’s focus is to “devise procedures and techniques against conventional and non-conventional threats,” according to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). This year’s show of naval might will be followed by a conference in which China, Russia, Pakistan and other participating countries will exchange ideas on maritime security.
During the naval drills, ships, aircraft, helicopters and Special Operations Forces detachments will take part in a series of naval activities: gunnery firings, anti-piracy activities, rocket-depth charge firing, replenishment at sea and fly pasts, according to the ISPR.
It is the first time Russia and Turkey are participating in Pakistan’s naval drills, which serves as more evidence that both Moscow and Ankara want to boost military ties with Islamabad.
Russia, Turkey boosting military ties with Pakistan
Turkey and Pakistan have enjoyed improvements in military ties over the past year. Last year, the two countries started signing major defense deals in a show of boosting bilateral defense relations.
Last year, Turkey and Pakistan reached a deal to upgrade the Pakistani Navy’s three Agosta 90B diesel-electric attack submarines. Islamabad is also interested in purchasing four Ada-class corvettes from Turkey. Islamabad, for its part, is set to start exporting 100 MFI-395 Super Mushshak military training aircraft to Ankara. Pakistan also reportedly wants to purchase Turkey’s third-generation main battle tank Altay.
Turkey is currently Pakistan’s third key military supplier, and in terms of being Islamabad’s key military partner, Turkey is second only to China, which has been its biggest ally for decades.
Ever since Russia lifted its arms embargo against Pakistan in 2014, the two nations, which were rivals for decades, also appear to be boosting their military ties. In 2017, Islamabad will receive four Mi-35M attack helicopters from Russia, while the Pakistani Army is also reportedly interested in purchasing Su-35 multirole combat aircraft from Moscow (However, on Wednesday, Russia dismissed the rumors that it’s considering selling the Su-35s to Pakistan).
Other reports indicate that Islamabad is interested in replacing its obsolete fleet of American AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters with 20 Mi-35Ms from Russia. In September, Islamabad and Moscow held their first-ever joint military drills involving 200 military personnel from each side.
India destroying Pakistan’s and China’s ships as part of TROPEX
India is not intent to sit back and watch Pakistan hold its major naval exercises with Russia, China, Turkey, the U.S. and other nations. The Indian Navy is conducting its own 30-day naval drills off India’s western coast.
Theater Readiness Operational Exercise (TROPEX) 2017 is India’s largest military exercise ever, involving more than 60 ships, five submarines and 70 aircraft. The focus of the naval exercises is to test the combat readiness of the Indian Navy and strengthen the inter-operability of the Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army and Indian Coast Guard.
This year, India is showing off its brutality at sea in an apparent attempt to scare off Pakistan and its ally China. The Indian Navy is practicing various warfare scenarios at sea, which involve Indian diesel-electric attack submarines sinking “enemy” submarines similar to those of China and Pakistan.
India’s media reported that the Indian Navy is using the Russia-made INS Chakra nuclear-powered attack submarine to hunt “enemy” submarines hundreds of kilometers off Goa’s coast. To help the Indian Navy track down the submarines, the P-8I Neptune, India’s advanced anti-submarine warfare aircraft, is being deployed.
China is boosting Pakistani military to challenge the U.S. and India
When asked to comment on India’s show of might as part of the TROPEX, Commander of Pakistan Fleet Vice Admiral Arifullah Hussaini reiterated that the goal of Pakistan’s AMAN 2017 was to promote inter-operability rather than increase the Pakistan Navy’s preparedness for war. Still, Pakistan’s navy can protect its waters and harbors, Mr. Hussaini stated, reports Greater Kashmir.
“We will ensure that our international interests are not jeopardized. We are not into escalating adventurism at sea,” he said. “Pakistan is committed to international peace.”
China appears to be united with Islamabad in its efforts to not let India shift the balance of power in the region. In the past few years, China has boosted its submarine patrols in the Indian Ocean and increased its surface naval presence there. China is also set to sell Pakistan eight modified diesel-electric attack submarines by 2028, which will cost between $4 billion and $5 billion.
China is also reportedly interested in resuming construction of one of its navy’s quietest diesel-electric attack submarine classes, something that would benefit both the Chinese and Pakistan Navy. By boosting Pakistan’s military, China is indirectly preventing the U.S. from asserting its hegemony in the region via India.