China will next bolster Pakistan Navy: Expert

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Delhi: China’s military cooperation with Pakistan will involve bolstering the Pakistani navy next, an expert on China-Pakistan relations said talking to Hindu, pointing to Pakistan’s planned acquisition of eight submarines from China as one of the “biggest and most significant” markers of their relationship.

“China will continue to bolster Pakistan’s military, and the navy is clearly the next phase of this,” Andrew Small, author of the “China-Pakistan axis: Asia’s new geopolitics” told The Hindu, adding the move would be driven by China’s increasing commitment to the economic corridor running from Xinjiang to Pakistan’s Gwadar port.

In October 2015, Pakistan had announced its decision to acquire eight Type 41 Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines, half of which may be built in Pakistan while the other half would be made in China and transferred.

According to Mr. Small, who visited Delhi recently, China’s $40 billion investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will make a larger naval presence in the Gwadar port a necessity. However, he added there were “benefits for India” if the CPEC resulted in an “economically stable Pakistan”. “One mustn’t discount the benefits to the region too, if China is able to restrain Pakistan’s activities in Afghanistan.” Mr. Small pointed to Pakistan’s statement of support to China over the South China Sea verdict as another significant marker of the relationship, but added that concerns in India about China’s forays in the Indian Ocean were “premature.”

In stronger position
“Asia Pacific peace weighs more heavily for the Chinese leadership, intrinsically, at the moment. You have the pattern of submarines in Sri Lanka, Maldives, and in Pakistan and I think they expect to be able to expand their presence in the Indian Ocean, but they are substantially weaker there. The Indians and the Americans are in a substantially stronger position there,” Mr. Small said.

Ties between India and China have been under a strain for several reasons, including the economic corridor that India has objected to as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. On China’s opposition to India’s Nuclear Suppliers Group membership, Mr. Small believes Beijing will continue to stick to its stand that India’s membership was contingent on a “process”. However, he added that if a process would allow India to become a member later this year and would open a door for Pakistan, it would be a “harder call” for China to hold out.
Courtesy: The Hindu