Islamabad: China is all set to supply modern weapons to Pakistan, including warships and fighter jets.
"According to information, Beijing has started building an advanced warship that would be exported to Pakistan under a defence agreement between the neighboring countries," reported The Nation, which claims to be Britain's largest circulating weekly newspaper.
China Daily, quoting one of the largest state-owned defence contractors, reported that "the construction of the ship had started in the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai and is a version of China's most advanced warship."
According to The Nation, China Daily quoted Pakistan Navy as saying that the ship's class is Type 054AP and that Pakistan has ordered four such vessels. "In June last year, Pakistan Navy had announced that it was purchasing two multirole Type 054A frigates from China for bolstering its war-fighting capability. The navy had said that Pakistan's fleet of Type 054A warships would grow to four by 2021," the report quoted.
China's PLA Navy has about 30 of such ships, equipped with advanced radars and missiles. The report says that Cao Weidong, a researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, opines that the equipment installed on the ships will be Chinese.
"Progress in the industry and the Pakistani Navy's confidence in our technology and capability.. I believe the reason they chose our type is that ours is one of the few that can carry out all of the air-defence, anti-ship and anti-submarine tasks," Weidong was quoted as saying. "I believe the reason they chose our type is that ours is one of the few that can carry out all of the air-defence, anti-ship and anti-submarine tasks," he added.
While the ships are expected to improve Pakistan's naval defence, it is China's largest and most powerful vessel export.
"The service of Type 054APs will double the combat power of the Pakistani Navy's surface fleet," the news report quoted the Chinese source inside the country's shipbuilding sector, as saying and telling China Daily that the combat vessel is the largest and most powerful that China has ever exported and is the best frigate that Islamabad can access.
"Based on pictures circulating on the internet, the ship will have vertical launch cells that can fire Chinese HQ-16 air-defense missiles and other kinds of missiles. Vertical launch cells will bring flexibility to the user in terms of weapons portfolio, thus giving it a stronger fighting capability," the unnamed source was quoted in the report. "The service of Type 054APs will double the combat power of the Pakistani Navy's surface fleet," he said.
US media reported that Beijing, as part of the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, plans to build and develop fighter jets and other military hardware in Pakistan. "Chinese officials have repeatedly said the Belt and Road is purely an economic project with peaceful intent. But with its plan for Pakistan, China is for the first time explicitly tying a Belt and Road proposal to its military ambitions- and confirming the concerns of a host of nations who suspect the infrastructure initiative is really about helping China project armed might," the New York Times reported, which Chinese Foreign Ministry denied.
Interestingly, the denial coincided with the China-Pakistan Joint Coordination Committee meeting over CPEC where they decided to expand industrial cooperation in diverse fields and attract investment in special economic zones.