Pakistan is hosting a weeklong naval exercise with China in the Arabian Sea that officials said Monday would further enhance their “joint operational capabilities in dealing with maritime security threats and safeguarding peace.”
The two neighboring countries began the drills Saturday at a naval base in Karachi in the waters and airspace of the northern Arabian Sea and will conclude them on November 17.
China’s defense ministry said Monday the two navies would also conduct joint anti-submarine warfare, noting that “China and Pakistan will conduct their first joint maritime patrol.”
The ministry said several warships and submarines, including the guided-missile destroyer Zibo, guided-missile frigates Jingzhou and Linyi, and a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps unit, are participating in the Sea Guardian-3 exercise.
The Pakistan Navy said after the opening ceremony that participants would jointly conduct “advanced level drills and naval maneuvers” during the exercise.
“The aim… is to share professional experiences on contemporary traditional and non-traditional threats in (the) Indian Ocean region as well as to enhance bilateral cooperation and interoperability between the two navies,” the statement said.
Chinese state media quoted Liang Yang, commander at a PLA Navy base and the general director of the exercise, telling Saturday’s opening ceremony that it aims to enhance “the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and boosting defense cooperation” with Pakistan.
China recently delivered four 'Type 054A/' guided missile frigates to Pakistan, with Hangor-class attack submarines jointly under construction in both countries.
Their latest drills follow what Moscow describes as "the first Russian-Myanmar naval exercise in modern history," held from Nov. 7-9 in the Andaman Sea on the northeastern fringe of the Indian Ocean, considered a milestone for Russia's naval presence in a sea that the United States counts as one of its global security interests.
Amid the push for deeper security ties between China and Pakistan, and Russia and Myanmar, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held defense talks in New Delhi last week with their Indian counterparts.
In a joint statement issued after the "2+2 Dialogue" on November 10, the United States and India reaffirmed their commitment to a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. However, the statement did not mention China. The two sides, without naming Russia, also “expressed mutual deep concern over the war in Ukraine and its tragic humanitarian consequences.”
While New Delhi’s relations with Washington have steadily strengthened, it has carefully preserved longstanding relations with Moscow, including defense cooperation.
Beijing has long maintained close defense ties with Islamabad, but the two allies have also deepened economic cooperation under China’s global infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative, or BRI, in recent years.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an extension of the BRI, has brought more than $25 billion in Chinese investments in building roads, ports, and power plants in the South Asian nation over the past decade. The massive program has completed and operationalized Pakistan's strategically located Arabian Sea port of Gwadar.
Some information in this report came from Reuters.