Chinese Arming of Pakistan
The first area of concern is Beijing’s help in arming Pakistan. According “China-Pakistan Relations,” a July 2010 article by Jamal Afridi and Jayshree Bajoria in the New York-headquartered Council on Foreign Relations’ Foreign Affairs, China provided assistance to Pakistan in setting up facilities at the Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRF) at Taxila, which would provide for the overhauling of Chinese Type-59 tanks and the upgrade of these tanks’ critical components such as fire control systems, thermal sight and electronic systems. During the 1980s, the HRF started licensed production of the state-of-the-art Chinese Type-69 battle tanks.
China has greatly enhanced Pakistans conventional war-fighting ability by coproducing the Main Battle Tank-2000, upgrading Pakistani submarines and jointly producing the Joint Strike Fighter-17 aircraft.
As Afridi and Bajoria report: “Later, a protocol was signed between China and Pakistan to set up facilities for the licensed production of Chinese Type-69 II BMPs (tracked fighting vehicle). The hulls were, however, imported from China along with amour plates, while other parts were manufactured in Pakistan under the technical advice of Chinese experts. China’s Norinco has also helped Pakistan in the manufacture of Chinese T-69 and T-85 II battle tanks and M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers. Similarly, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex at Kamra was also established with Chinese assistance. The F-6 Rebuild Factory, established as a turnkey project by China, became operational in November 1980. The F-6 had, after the American F-86 Sabres, come to be the mainstay of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). China later also built overhauling facilities in Pakistan for the F-6 Shenyang fighter and the Tumansky RD-9B-8II turbojet engines with over 7,000 other spare parts.”
Riedel and Singh concur, adding that Beijing is also the principal arms supplier to Islamabad. Between 1978 and 2008, China sold roughly $7 billion worth of equipment to Pakistan. Weaponry included short-and-medium range ballistic missiles, small arms and conventional war-fighting weapons systems. In addition, China has greatly enhanced Pakistan’s conventional war-fighting ability by coproducing the Main Battle Tank-2000, upgrading Pakistani submarines and jointly producing the Joint Strike Fighter-17 aircraft. In November 2009, Beijing agreed to sell J-10 advanced fighter jets to Islamabad in a deal worth $1.4 billion.
What also bothered Riedel and Singh is the fact that Pakistan, who has maintained ties with European defence companies, could be a conduit providing sophisticated European defence technologies to China. “As recently as 2008, French company MBDA has been in negotiations with Pakistan to sell Islamabad MICA (Missile d’Interception, de Combat et d’Autodéfense) air-to-air missiles (AAM), while another French conglomerate, Thales, intends to sell the RC400 radar to Islamabad,” Riedel and Singh write. “The missiles and radars would equip the joint Sino-Pakistan JF-17/FC1 fighter. Defense industry analysts suspect that if the sale goes through, Chinese officials will have almost certain access to weapons technology that was previously included under the arms embargo. And, in the event of a confrontation with Taiwan, Beijing can use this technology to neutralize Taiwan’s Air Force, which utilizes fighter jets that are equipped with the same MICA air-to-air missiles.”
“¦Pakistan, who has maintained ties with European defence companies, could be a conduit providing sophisticated European defence technologies to China.
It has also been noted in Washington that much of the military equipment China provides to Pakistan does not directly serve counterterrorism goals but more broadly supports the needs of Pakistan. Apart from the JF-17 agreement, other more recent examples of China’s role in providing military equipment to Pakistan include assistance in the development of the Pakistan navy’s Sword-class (F-22) frigates and a contract for at least 36 CAC J-10 multirole fighter aircraft, with the first delivery expected in 2012 or 2013.
Why the worry?
It is hard to miss the irony in the fact that the United States—which had armed Pakistan during the Cold War days, when Islamabad engaged in border wars with India using those weapons—is now concerned about the arming of Pakistan. There is no indication that such worries centre on a suspicion that possession of the weapons will encourage Pakistan to start a war with India. So, why the concern? Is it because the armaments are supplied by China, a potential enemy of the United States? If that is the case, does the worry centre on the potential difficulties for the United States if it should choose to intervene militarily in Pakistan at some future date? U.S. policymakers have expressed their concern about the fate of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the event that the jihadis get control of Islamabad. Under such circumstances, a weakly armed Pakistan is Washington’s preference.
“¦the relationship between Pakistan and Russia is marred by the Cold War legacy and will take a long time to get normalized.
Some in Washington have other worries, as well. The New York–based Hudson Institute’s Anna Mahjar-Barducci penned an article “New War Ahead: China-Pakistan vs. U.S.A.,” on March 2, 2011, in which she cites the deployment of “thousands of soldiers in the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan, a mountainous area in northern Pakistan, and a region historically contested by Pakistan, India and its inhabitants.”
This deployment, Mahjar-Barducci argues, is targeted against India and constitutes a show of intent by China to get directly involved in the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. She quotes Mumtaz Khan, director for the International Centre of Peace and Democracy in Toronto, saying, “Many Western analysts who view China’s stance merely as a bargaining chip against India will unfortunately soon realize that China is redefining its priorities and interests in South Asia and beyond. The current involvement of China in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir consists of more than just providing military and diplomatic support to Pakistan. Soon, Pakistan will swap its role to take the backseat as China exerts itself as a major player in the Kashmir issue”—and maybe also in Afghanistan.