Until five years ago, the US and China shared an almost equal proportion of Pakistans arms imports: 39 per cent and 38 per cent respectively. Today, China supplies 63 per cent of Pakistans armaments, with the US dropping to 19 per cent and second place, an IndiaSpend analysis reveals, as Pakistan mulls a response to Indias strike on terror camps across the border.
China’s rise to becoming the world’s third-largest arms exporter was to a large degree helped by heightened demand from Pakistan, which now buys 35 per cent of these exports and is Beijing’s biggest buyer (Bangladesh follows at 20 per cent), according to a February 2016 report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The military supplies are bolstered by unwavering support at a time of heightened tension with India and faltering ties with the US (there was a 73 per cent drop in US security aid over four years to 2015, The Wire reported in August 2016; the US also cancelled the subsidised sale of eight F-16 fighters).
Last month, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production confirmed a contract with China for the purchase of eight conventional diesel-electric submarines, which will cost between $4 billion to $5 billion.
The submarines could have a nuclear strategic capability — they could be used to launch nuclear-tipped land attack cruise missiles, providing Pakistan with a partial second-strike capability to rival India’s submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missiles.
The submarines are the latest of several big ticket arms purchases by Pakistan. Others:
* Between 250 to 300 JF-17 fighter planes jointly developed by China and Pakistan. These will form the backbone of the Pakistani Air Force. Nigeria has signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase an unknown number of JF-17 aircraft, according to IHS Jane’s, a defence/aerospace publication, making Pakistan a defence exporter
* Four 2,5000-ton Zulfiquar-class frigates at a cost of $500 to $750 million. Three of these were constructed in China, the fourth in Karachi
* Four 560-ton Azmat-class fast attack craft, essentially missile boats armed with eight C-802 anti-ship missiles meant for littoral defence. Three of four are being manufactured in Pakistan