China will deliver 25 J-10C fighter jets to Pakistan within weeks in a deal that will bolster Islamabad’s military capabilities against mutual rival India.
Beijing’s first export of the advanced jets marks a big step forward in its decades-old arms relationship with Islamabad and involves supplying its ally with some of the latest equipment used by China’s armed forces. China will also expand its support for Pakistan’s navy.
The first batch of the fighter jet is being tested in Chengdu, the base of its builder Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, according to a reporter from a Chinese military publication.
“They will be transferred to Pakistan once Pakistan Air Force pilots and technicians complete an introduction to the aircraft,” he said.
Senior officials in Islamabad said the jets would be delivered before the end of the month.
Last week, Chinese and foreign military observers posted photos and a video showing several J-10C aircraft in Pakistani Air Force colors on social media.
China is also selling Pakistan four Type 054A frigates, the first of which was commissioned in November, and is expected to start delivering up to eight Type 041 submarines, its quietest attack submarine, This year.
India, which has been locked in a stalemate on its Himalayan border with China for nearly two years, believes that arms deliveries to Pakistan are an attempt to amplify the threat from Islamabad. India shares long land borders with Pakistan and China.
“There is a clear strategic link between China and Pakistan,” said Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank. “This bond is clearly designed to contain India, to immobilize it and keep it preoccupied. This is the Chinese strategic objective.
He described the latest arms deals as a significant change, adding that “China is now selling or transferring its high-end weapons systems to Pakistan.”
The J-10C aircraft will help Pakistan bridge the air power gap with India following New Delhi’s acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. “This is our response to [India’s] Burst,” Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said when he revealed the J-10C deal in December.
The new Chinese ships would boost Pakistan’s capabilities in the Indian Ocean, an area of strategic importance to Beijing.
“They want Pakistan to have naval bases ready that China could also use and be able to protect them,” said Siemon Wezeman, an arms trade expert at the International Peace Research Institute in Pakistan. Stockholm.
“The Chinese have shown that they will sell to Pakistan while others will not. I suspect China is very easy to persuade [to sell]not only for commercial reasons but also for political reasons,” he said.
India is also planning naval expansion. The navy’s deputy chief said late last year it was aiming to increase the size of its fleet from 130 ships to 170 by 2027, including four frigates being developed in partnership with Russia.
Despite the upgrades, Chellaney said the Himalayan stalemate was draining India’s defense resources. “The Indian Navy is supposed to be undergoing modernization, but the modernization is taking place at a relatively slow pace, largely due to the land-based military clashes that India is facing,” he said.