BEIJING: China’s Defence Minister Gen. Li Shangfu told Pakistan’s naval chief Amjad Khan Niazi on Monday that the two all-weather friends should seek new areas of military cooperation and jointly safeguard their security interests and region.
Li said the relations between the militaries of the two countries are an important part of China-Pakistan relations, and cooperation between the two sides in various fields, including the two navies, has achieved good results.
Li said the militaries of the two countries should expand exchanges in new areas, create new cooperation highlights, and work together to safeguard the security interests of both countries and the region, a defence ministry statement here said. Observers say Sino-Pakistan military cooperation in recent years focussed more on the navy as China gradually stepped up its naval presence in India’s backyard, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea where it is developing Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
Besides acquiring four modern naval frigates from China, Pakistan will also be getting eight Chinese submarines as part of the efforts to modernisation, Admiral Niazi told the Chinese media during his visit earlier. Indian Navy Chief Admiral Kumar said last month that Pakistan Navy is modernising itself at a good pace and seeks to become a 50-platform force in 10-15 years, and they are adding new corvettes and frigates to their fleet.
Niazi’s visit is part of a flurry of high-level visits between the two countries this month amid Pakistan’s deepening economic and political crisis and reports of leaked documents highlighting deliberations in the Pakistan establishment on whether to move closer to the US to balance ties with China.
Early this month, Pakistan’s Army chief Gen Asim Munir made his maiden visit to Beijing during which he met senior Chinese Generals and top diplomat Wang Yi who is the Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee.
During Gen. Munir’s visit, China’s new Premier Li Qiang also held his first phone call with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and promised continued financial help for Pakistan which is facing a serious political and economic crisis. It was followed by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s visit to Islamabad on May 5-6 during which he also met Army chief Gen. Munir.
The visits followed reports in the US and Pakistan media quoting two Pakistani memos pointing to a deliberation in the country’s political and military establishment to open up relations with the US to balance ties with China.
In one of the memos, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar warned that Pakistan can “no longer try to maintain a middle ground between China and the United States.”