The war games, just 200 km from the border with India, take place just one week after Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe visited Pakistan to sign a memorandum of understanding. closer military cooperation.
The exercises, called ‘Shaheen’ or Falcon-IX, are being carried out at the recently operational Bholari air base near Karachi.
According to Nikkei Asia magazine, the Pakistani Air Force released a video showing the wide range of military aircraft on display in the exercise, which will last until the end of December.
China has shipped its fourth-generation Shenyang J-11 air superiority fighters and its Chengdu J-10 multi-role jets.
Pakistan, meanwhile, is flying a combination of Chinese-made third-generation Chengdu F-7 interceptors, French Dassault Mirage 5 strike aircraft and the new multi-purpose JF-17 Thunder jointly produced by China and Pakistan.
No American equipment, such as the F-16, has been deployed, the Pakistanis said.
China’s Defense Ministry said the drills “will deepen practical cooperation between the two air forces.”
Pakistan’s air force has become increasingly reliant on China as the United States has cut off the supply of military hardware to Islamabad due to its ties to Islamic militant groups.
At the opening ceremony on December 9, Deputy Air Marshal Ahmed Sulehri, Pakistan’s deputy chief of air staff, said the exercises “will further enhance the interoperability of both air forces, thereby strengthening the fraternal relations between the two countries.”
Major General Sun Hong, deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, said “they will improve the actual level of combat training and strengthen cooperation.”
China’s military build-up on the Ladakh border has forced India to counter the measure to protect its territorial rights and to rethink the country’s security arrangements and military exercises. This has shaken both China and Pakistan.
India recently hosted the massive 2020 Malabar naval exercise with the US, Japan and Australia.
Australia’s inclusion in the group has strengthened the “Quad” or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprising the four democratic countries that are seen as a counterweight to China’s growing muscle flex in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. the African coasts.
Beijing and Islamabad have also been strengthening their relationship with China by providing economic, military and even nuclear support to Pakistan, which has liquidity problems.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $ 60 billion communications, energy and infrastructure project to connect western China with the Arabian Sea through the port of Gwadar under the Belt and Road initiative is part of the strategy anti-India.
While the ongoing drills are not the first joint air force exercise between the Chinese and Pakistanis, timing, location and size matter.
The Indian military has been aware of the possibility of a two-front war with China and Pakistan and the chief of defense staff, General Bipin Rawat, has stated that the Indian defense forces are prepared to face such a challenge if necessary.
Analysts like retired Rear Admiral Sudarshan Shrikhande, India’s former naval intelligence chief, believe the exercise reflects the broader strategic stance of China and Pakistan towards India.
“The problems of increasing coherence and collusion between China and Pakistan have become concerns for India,” Shrikhande told Nikkei Asia.
Both China and Pakistan have also been affected by the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation signed in October between the US and India, which allows New Delhi access to US military satellite intelligence for better accuracy of weapons.
According to Nikkei Asia, even as Pakistan’s military continues to move closer to China, it still wants to maintain cordial ties with the US, with which it has often partnered since joining the US-led alliance against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, an arrangement that helped both win Washingtonfavor and provide benefits in exchange for decades.
Pakistan’s military is in a difficult balancing act between the United States and China, given the current trade and political tensions between Washington and Beijing.
“When we gave the Americans an air force base to spy on the Soviets in the 1950s, we received American hardware to fight the Indians in the 1960s,” a Pakistani official told Nikkei Asia.
“When Pakistani intelligence supported the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s and defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan without a single American boot on the ground, we got F-16s in return. The same thing happened again, when the Americans invaded Afghanistan.
“Yes, we have been transactional allies, but reliable allies. Now, the Americans have found a new friend in the Indians. But they should know better,” the officer said.