“To counter India, it is important for Pakistan to improve its navy by acquiring advanced equipment from Beijing and enhancing its capabilities through these drills…”
The accompanying three excerpted articles highlight different perceptions of the growing China-Pakistan strategic partnership in the Indian Ocean. In July, China and Pakistan held their second “Sea Guardians” joint naval exercise off the coast of Shanghai. The exercise was meant in part to test Pakistan’s new Type 054A/P warship—the country’s most advanced Chinese-built frigate. The Pakistani navy commissioned its first Type 054A/P, the PNS Tughril, in January and the second one, PNS Taimur, in June. Pakistan has a contract to receive two more at an unspecified date. According to popular Indian daily The Hindu, the “Sea Guardians” exercises are paving the way for closer security cooperation between China and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean. Chinese and Pakistani experts point out the need to safeguard strategic sea lanes used to transport energy and goods. They also comment on Pakistan’s need “to ensure seaward defense, maintain peace, stability and balance of power in the Indian Ocean region.” The Hong Kong-based semi-independent South China Morning Post attributes China’s growing role in the Indian Ocean to growing U.S.-India joint maritime security cooperation. China’s goal is to “counter U.S. efforts to advance its Indo-Pacific strategy, which emphasizes India’s continued rise and leadership in the region.” Meanwhile, Paris-based, online media source Naval News sees the buildup of Pakistan’s naval capability more generally as an effort to counter India. According to the article, the Pakistani navy is in the process of renewing its fleet. In addition to the four Chinese frigates, they will be commissioning new corvettes from Turkey and a multi-purpose offshore patrol vessel from the Netherlands. Pakistan is also modernizing its submarine fleet. In 2016, Pakistan entered a $5 billion deal with China to acquire eight Chinese Yuan-class Type 041 diesel submarines by 2028. According to the article, the goal is “to shift the force balance with its archrival India.”
Ananth Krishnan, “China, Pakistan Begin War Games Off Shanghai,” The Hindu (Indian daily newspaper), 10 July 2022. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/china-pakistan-begin-war-games-off-shanghai/article65624154.ece
China and Pakistan on Sunday began four-day naval exercises off the coast of Shanghai, involving Pakistan’s most advanced China-built frigate and paving the way for closer security cooperation between the two countries in the Indian Ocean.
Wei Dongxu, a Chinese military expert, told the paper the two countries “need to jointly demonstrate their capabilities in safeguarding strategic sea lanes that transport energy and goods.”
The first Type 054A, Tughril, was commissioned last year. Pakistan’s envoy to China Moil Ul Haque then told Chinese media that the commissioning of the frigate “in the context of the overall security paradigm of the region” would “strengthen Pakistan Navy’s capabilities to respond to maritime challenges to ensure seaward defence, maintain peace, stability and balance of power in the Indian Ocean region.”
Source: Amber Wang, “China and Pakistan Launch Naval Drills Aimed at Countering US Indo-Pacific Strategy,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong based semi-independent English language daily), 11 July 2022. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3184897/china-and-pakistan-launch-naval-drills-aimed-countering-us-indo
This is the second time China and Pakistan have held a “Sea Guardians” joint maritime exercise. The first was held in January 2020 in the northern Arabian Sea.
Lin Minwang, a professor of South Asian studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the exercise would help China to expand its engagement in the Indian Ocean and counter US efforts to advance its Indo-Pacific strategy, which emphasizes India’s “continued rise” and leadership in the region.
“The strengthening of maritime security between India and the United States has led to China’s greater engagement in the Indian Ocean.”
The Indian Ocean is a vital trading hub, and 80 per cent of China’s oil imports come through the Malacca Strait, the ocean’s busiest “choke point”.
To counter India, it is important for Pakistan to improve its navy by acquiring advanced equipment from Beijing and enhancing its capabilities through these drills, according to Lin.
Source: Tayfun Ozberk,“Pakistan Navy Commissions 2nd Type 054 A/P Frigate ‘PNS Taimur,’” Naval News (Paris based naval focused news outlet), 24 June 2022. https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2022/06/pakistan-navy-commissions-2nd-type-054-a-p-frigate-pns-taimur/
The Pakistan Navy is currently undertaking an important renewal of its fleet, with the procurement of several modern platforms: In addition to these frigates from China, Pakistan will also commission new corvettes from Turkey and OPV from the Netherlands. It is also modernizing its submarine force. In 2016, Pakistan agreed to pay China $5 billion for the acquisition of eight Chinese Yuan-class type-041 diesel submarines by 2028 in order to shift the force balance with its archrival India.