China-Pakistan Naval cooperation Changing geopolitics & geostrategic scenarios
DUE to rapidly changing geopolitical partnerships and geostrategic conflicting realities, China-Pakistan naval cooperation is getting momentum.
Maritime security and blue economy have direct correlation which has encouraged both the iron-clad brothers to further strengthen their cooperation in diverse sector of naval mechanism.
Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, Asia-Pacific waters and last but not the least, China South Sea have become a common benchmark between China and Pakistan to excel in these deep waters to protect their vested socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic interests.
Moreover, increasing presence of NATO/US navies in the region has alarmed the regional countries which are in the process of further consolidation of their naval cooperation.
In this regard, most recently, China-Pakistan conducted a joint naval drill named “Sea Guardians-2” joint maritime in Shanghai during which diversified tactical and operational exercises were held between the navies of the two countries.
It was timely and well prepared which rightly showcased tactical and strategic preparedness of China-Pakistan navies.
Many operation planning, professional expertise exchanges and cultural and sports competitions took place during the manoeuvres.
The two navies also held drills including attacking at maritime targets, anti-submarine operations and anti-aircraft and anti-missile operations.
The joint naval exercise aimed to enhance defence cooperation, exchange expertise and experience, deepen the traditional friendship between the two brotherly countries and militaries, and promote the development of the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership.
The goal of joint naval drill was to enhance defence cooperation, conduct professional and technical exchanges, deepen traditional friendship between the two countries and the two navies, and promote the development of the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between China and Pakistan.
It was themed “jointly dealing with maritime security threats,” the exercise featured training courses including the joint strike against maritime targets, joint tactical manoeuvring, joint anti-submarine warfare and joint support for damaged vessels.
In this regard, China-Pakistan navies jointly deployed their new high-tech naval ships and fighter jets to jointly deal with maritime security threats as their navies stepped up cooperation in India’s backyard, the Indian Ocean.
According to Global Times, the PLA Eastern Theatre Command Navy sent the frigate Xiangtan, the corvette Shuozhou, the comprehensive supply ship Qiandaohu, a submarine, an early warning aircraft, two fighter jets and a helicopter for the drill while the Pakistan Navy’s frigate Taimur joined the exercise.
It provided an ample opportunity to Pakistan Navy’s China-built Type 054A/P frigate to gain valuable professional experience from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s vessel of the same type.
Numerous warships participated in the Sea Guardians-2 joint maritime drill, including the Type 054A guided missile frigate Xiangtan and Type 056A guided missile corvette Shuozhou from the PLA Navy and the Type 054A/P guided missile frigate Taimur from the Pakistan Navy. Both navies conducted various live-fire phase of the exercise.
According to high official of PLA Navy during the two-day live-fire drill, the both sides naval vessels conducted numerous training courses including communications, joint missile and main gun attacks against maritime targets, anti-aircraft shooting with close in weapons system, joint replenishment, joint tactical manoeuvring, joint anti-submarine warfare, air defence and anti-missile as well as joint support on damaged vessels.
Reliable naval sources shared that the live-fire phase was jointly held after the two navies wrapped up the two-day exchange phase on shore which featured simulations of tactics and command as well as professional exchanges between sailors from the Xiangtan and the Taimur over techniques in the use of the main gun and the close-in weapon system, the support of vessel-based helicopters, anti-submarine warfare, damage control and maritime replenishment.
Comparative study of China-Pakistan naval cooperation reveal that Pakistan is the first user of the China-built Type 054A outside China, with the Taimur, the second of four Type 054A/P frigates, being delivered to the Pakistan Navy in Shanghai on June 23, and the first ship of its class, the Tughril, having joined the Pakistan Navy Fleet in January.
High officials of the two navies were of the opinions that exchanges between Chinese and Pakistani sailors enabled the latter, which just received delivery of the Taimur, to quickly accumulate knowledge in making the best out of the vessel, and putting them into practice in the live-fire exercises.
In this context, Pakistan’s warship got the chance to integrate into the PLA’s combat system and received real-time battlefield information.
It helped Pakistan to build its own comprehensive combat system. The PLA Navy’s early warning aircraft provided situational intelligence and targeting data to the Pakistani vessel in the missile attack drill.
The Pakistan Navy uses the Type 054A/P as its main surface combatant that must be responsible for all anti-air, anti-ship and anti-submarine missions, while the PLA Navy uses the Type 054A as a support ship for only anti-submarine and additional anti-air missions, eastday.
com said, as the PLA Navy has larger vessels like the Type 055 and Type 052D destroyers as main surface combatants.
It reflects that China’s arms industry can customize its weapons and equipment for foreign customers to suit their demands.
To conclude, further strengthening of naval cooperation between navies of both countries is the need of the hour.
Increasing non-traditional threats in terms of piracy and maritime terrorists in regions like the Indian Ocean, so it has become necessary that the two countries enhance cooperation in these aspects.
Thus Sea Guardians 2 was well perceived and pursued. The first edition of the ‘Sea Guardians’ exercise was held in January 2020 in Karachi.
Both countries should also need to jointly demonstrate their capabilities in safeguarding strategic sea lanes that transport energy and goods.
Complex and complicated conflicting reality has further enhanced strategic importance of the Arabian Sea region which is strategically important as major Indian ports including Kandla, Okha, Mumbai, Mormugao, New Mangalore and Kochi are located there.
It provides entry to the Indian Ocean where China currently has built a logistics base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
Sino-Pakistan military cooperation in recent years focused more on the Navy as China gradually stepped up its naval presence in India’s backyard, the Indian Ocean.
Besides building its first military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa in the Indian Ocean, China is also active in the Arabian Sea through incorporation of CPEC projects in Pakistan.
China is also developing Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port after it acquired it on 99 years lease.
The modernisation of the Pakistan Navy coupled with the acquisition of the naval bases will definitely protect vested interests of both countries.
On the other hand, the Taimur’s participation in the most recently concluded drills indicates its high technical maturity, the success in the Pakistani sailors’ training as well as the rich experience.
—The writer is Director, the Centre for South Asia & International Studies Islamabad & regional expert, China, CPEC & BRI.