China delivers two Type 054A frigates to Pakistan’s navy, which will be used to guard the seas of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Chinese media reported.
CPEC is an ambitious infrastructure project that links Xinjiang in west China to Pakistan aimed at offering an alternative transportation route in the future for goods including gas. Part of the network is Pakistan’s Gwadar port, located on a key waterway in the Arabian Sea.
Economic and military ties between the two neighbors have deepened against a shifting geopolitical backdrop, evident from Pakistan’s increasing military procurement from China and joint military exercises to safeguard assets and trade routes. For China, Pakistan and its access to the Arabian Sea are key in the event of a maritime blockade in the Strait of Malacca.
China delivered the first batch of six J-10 fighter jets to Pakistan in March last year. Eight Hangor Class submarines that Pakistan ordered from China are expected to be delivered before 2028.
Earlier this week, China’s defense minister told Pakistan’s navy chief that their militaries, including their navies, should “expand into new fields of cooperation” to bolster their capability in safeguarding regional security.
“The prospects for cooperation between the two sides, in my opinion, is getting stronger and stronger,” Song Zhongping, a military commentator with Phoenix TV, told Reuters.
In South Asia, China’s ties with India, with whom Pakistan has frosty relations, have deteriorated in recent years, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops in nearby Afghanistan has raised geopolitical uncertainty in the region, pushing China and Pakistan to seek a stronger alliance.
“Maintaining the peace and stability of South Asia fits with both countries’ actual interests,” he said.