ISLAMABAD — The Pakistani ambassador to China, Masood Khan, wants to boost exchanges between the militaries in order to “deepen the existing strategic ties and give further push to the all-weather and time-tested friendship between the two countries.”
He was speaking at the graduation ceremony July 28 of the 2nd Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC)-Pakistan Air Force Officer Development Programme held in Beijing.
The program was organized by the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC), and the AVIC University. It is a one-month course conducted by the university for officers from the Engineering Branch of the Pakistan Air Force.
According to the Associated Press of Pakistan, Khan lauded joint Sino-Pakistani projects such as the FC-1 Fierce Dragon/JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, and called for closer ties between AVIC and the Pakistan Air Force.
While increased military cooperation might seem to be in Pakistan’s favor, analysts said the situation is not so clear cut.
According to Rick Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, “China gains both strategically and tactically by increasing exercises and other military exchanges with Pakistan. It advances the trend of China’s displacing the United States as Islamabad’s primary strategic partner and it gives the [People’s Liberation Army] much needed experience in deploying abroad,” he said.
This could be viewed as a new aspect to China’s relationship with Pakistan, he said, and China stands to make further gains in South Asia from increased cooperation.
“Increasing military engagement with Pakistan points to a new trend of adding ‘active support’ to China’s ‘all weather friendship’ that militarily has revolved around the provision of conventional and nuclear military means. Increasing engagement with Pakistan also allows China to develop options for putting military force on an additional border with India,” he said.
Former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley, said “talks and plans for talks and exchanges of visits are part of the overall pattern of cooperation” which “although mutually beneficial, is plainly in favor of Pakistan.”
However, he also highlights possible benefits to China.
“Having said that, it is apparent that Pakistan is a valued ally and receives equipment and technical advice that are extremely important, mainly in the military field,” he said.
“China knows it has a dependable UNSC [United Nationals Security Council] ally in the event of disputes with India being taken there by Delhi, as Pakistan was elected a non-permanent member at the beginning of this year.”
What is publicly observed in the Sino-Pakistani relationship is only part of the reality, he said, both in terms of security benefits China gains from its relationship with Pakistan and cooperation in Afghanistan.
“It goes deeper than that and there is more cooperation than is made public concerning anti-terrorism,” he said.
“China is most concerned about possible terrorist activity in its western regions, and Islamabad is cooperating in identifying possible cells in Pakistan. Further, Pakistan is pleased that China is making greater economic efforts in Afghanistan, and when the U.S. leaves, Islamabad will cooperate in every way to facilitate Chinese development of natural resources.”
He does, however, conclude that the relationship is more vital to Pakistan given Pakistan’s current international isolation.
“On Pakistan’s side, it needs all the friends it can get, and China is reliable and willing to continue the relationship. There is no apparent discord or seemingly much chance of any occurring.”