Towards an everlasting partnership
Farooq Hameed Khan
When four PAF JF-17 Thunder fighter jets, that were co-produced with Chinese assistance, escorted Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s Jumbo aircraft in Pakistan’s airspace, it reflected the true spirit of a time-tested and all-weather strategic partnership between the two countries.
The Chinese defence/aerospace technology has made tremendous strides since the sixties to the extent that not only is China today producing critical weapon/missile systems, naval warships/submarines and advanced fighter aircraft, but also commercial airliners and spaceships. The Pakistan armed forces have, thus, benefited from the open-hearted transfer of Chinese technology related to both conventional and non-conventional weapon systems.
At a time when the West slapped arms embargo and sanctions on Pakistan in the post-1965 and 1971 war era, it were the Chinese who not only supplied the MIG fighter aircrafts and T-59 tanks, but also helped Pakistan establish the defence production industrial base at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Kamra, the Heavy Industries (HIT) and Heavy Mechanical and Electrical Complexes at Taxila.
Many dreams of the seventies have been translated into reality through the joint design/development and co-production model between China and Pakistan. The JF-17 Thunder multi-role combat aircraft, Karakorum-8 (K-8) Jet, ZDK-03 AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) in China, the Al-Khalid main battle tank (HIT) and underproduction F-22P naval frigate in Karachi Shipyard are shining examples in this regard.
That the Chinese want a strong and stable Pakistan to ensure peace in the region was evident from Jiabao’s special interaction with the Chiefs of the Armed Forces. Such a meeting of Service Chiefs with a visiting Head of State is considered rare and unprecedented. The PM is reported to have assured continued defence cooperation and support for Pakistan’s armed forces. In the backdrop of persistent US pressure on Pakistan army, and American plans for military action against the Haqqani and Al-Qaeda networks in North Waziristan, this meeting assumed added importance.
Perhaps, a significant outcome of this visit was the Chinese Premier’s emphasis on enhanced support for the energy and infrastructure development projects in Pakistan – the national trade and energy corridor from Gwadar via the Karakorum to Xingkiang, China’s western autonomous region. Premier Jiabao also announced to increase investment to develop Gwadar Port, while its operation may be handed over to the Chinese firm in near future.