India’s decision to bolster defence ties with the US has started influencing the regional geopolitics. Soon after India allowed America to use its land, air and naval bases for military purposes, Pakistan has announced that it will acquire eight modified diesel-electric attack submarines from China.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Pakistani Navy said that Beijing would take 12 years to deliver all the eight attack submarines to Islamabad on the basis of a USD 5 billion agreement signed between the two governments. According to the statement, it is the biggest arms export deal between the two countries.
Radio Pakistan reported that China would help Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW) manufacture four of the eight submarines that would be equipped with Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) systems. China even agreed to extend a long-term loan to Pakistan at a low interest rate to cover the cost of the entire project.
A senior Pakistani naval officer has hinted that they will receive the first four submarines by the end of 2023 and the remaining four will be assembled in Karachi by 2028. He has claimed that the move will certainly boost Pakistan’s naval strength.
However, the two countries have refused to disclose the type of submarines that will be supplied to the Pakistani Navy by the China Shipbuilding Trading Company (CSTC). Top Pakistani defence analysts guess that the new vessels will (most probably) be lighter export versions of the Type 039 and Type 041 Yuan-class conventional attack submarines used by People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
China, considered an “all-weather friend” of Pakistan, has emerged as the biggest supplier of defence hardwires to the South Asian country in recent times. Currently, Beijing supplies battle tanks, naval ships, fighter jets and other military hardwires to Islamabad. Also, the two countries jointly manufacture ‘J-17 Thunder’ fighter jets.
Meanwhile, Indian defence experts have predicted that India’s bid to join US alliance will prompt Pakistan and China to reciprocate the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) by a similar defence pact. The LEMOA, an Indo-US military logistics agreement, irked both China and Pakistan, as the defence agreement would have a direct impact on both the countries. With the accord allowing New Delhi and Washington to use each other’s military facilities, China has slammed India for allowing the US to gain a foothold in Asia.
The American media have hailed New Delhi for signing the LEMOA with Washington, saying that the agreement would help the US contain China that has been spreading its influence across Asia. The US Navy has already hinted that it will deploy 60% of its surface ships in the Indo-Pacific in the near future as India already has the military facilities in the region. In the past, the US had to build everything from scratch before sending its troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.