Pakistan's defense minister said China has agreed to take over operation of the strategically positioned Port of Gwadar, and that Islamabad would like the Chinese to build a base there for the Pakistani navy says the Wall Street Journal.
China as a powerful alternative ally and aid source if the U.S. scales down military assistance for Islamabad in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's killing.
Beijing agreed to expedite delivery of a second batch of 50 jointly developed JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan, possibly within six months.
The fighter agreement prompted India's defense minister, A.K. Antony, to express serious concern in a meeting with reporters late Friday about the growing defense ties between China and Pakistan, and to assert that India's only possible response was to build up its own military arsenal.
Pakistan is believed to be receiving a major boost in military hardware including rushed deliveries of J-10B (known as FC-20s in Pakistani colors) and JF-17 fighters. Rumors have it that J-11Bs, a Chinese version of the famed Sukohoi Su-27 FLANKER fighter aircraft are also potentially part of the deal to bolster the Pakistan Navy (PN). The PN is also said to receive a significant number of Chinese naval assets including Type 054A based frigates and Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) capable submarines.
China—Pakistan's biggest arms supplier—provided 80% of the initial $248 million funding for the construction of Gwadar, a former fishing village in the southwestern province of Baluchistan whose 47-foot-deep port is the only one in Pakistan capable of handling the biggest cargo ships.
Pakistani officials say Gwadar will be a trade hub for Central Asia and a transit point for Chinese oil imports, most of which are now shipped via the Malacca Strait, making them vulnerable to piracy or naval blockades.
China and Pakistan also have discussed plans to build an oil pipeline from Gwadar to northwestern China, and two new stretches of railway extending the Pakistani network to Gwadar at one end, and to the Chinese border at the other.
Some U.S. and Indian military officials see Gwadar more as part of a so-called "string of pearls" naval strategy, wherein China has also funded construction or upgrades of ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
"China is trying to undercut the U.S.'s numerous interests in Pakistan," said Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. "Gwadar was the linchpin of [the] 'string of pearls' strategy and the latest news adds to that. India faces a unique challenge that no other country does. Its two nuclear armed neighbors are closely aligned and are stepping up joint military programs. India will have to step up its deterrent capabilities."
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