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Pakistan in the Middle, China’s Balancing Act and India’s Dilemma -

Discussion in 'Indian Defence Industry' started by Averageamerican, Nov 9, 2013.

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  1. Averageamerican

    Averageamerican Colonel ELITE MEMBER

    Oct 3, 2010
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    Wednesday, 27 March 2013
    The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has published its latest quadrennial report on the trends in International Arms Transfers. The report indicates that China may be using its position as a major arms exporter to prop up Pakistan and so counterbalance India’s influence.


    Pakistan and India are currently enjoying a highpoint in bilateral relations, but there is no guarantee that it will last. Pakistan and India share a tenuous history and, as the latest SIPRI Trends in International Arms Transfers report, published on 18 March 2013, demonstrates, both are building up their armed forces. As the largest supplier to Pakistan, Beijing has a strategic interest in supplying arms to India’s rival.


    Fifty per cent of all Pakistani arms imports are from the Middle Kingdom. As a world share, Pakistan now imports five per cent of conventional arms, increasing its share by three per cent since the 2003-07 period. Given Pakistan’s often fragile security environment, porous borders and rivalry with its giant neighbour India, it should come as no surprise that it is a major arms importer. The main interest lies in where Islamabad acquires its defence materiel.

    Any action taken by China in the wider Indo-Pacific region is frequently interpreted as a classic struggle for power. In that light, Beijing’s connection to Pakistan can be viewed as more than simply good business. Beijing, often labelled an “über-realistâ€, is keenly aware that its supplies to Pakistan are strategically important. By supplying Pakistan with arms, it achieves two main aims of its Indian Ocean foreign policy. The first is that it consolidates its relationship with Pakistan, as weapons sales are highly political affairs. Second, and perhaps more important, is that it enables Pakistan to maintain a certain degree of military equilibrium with India, thus ensuring that India remains pre-occupied with Pakistan, rather than with the giant to its north-east.

    India’s position as the worldwide number one importer of arms, illustrates an important aspect of the China-India rivalry. India’s doubling of its global share of imported arms may be indicative of inherent failings in the Indian system, preventing it from sufficiently developing an indigenous defence industry. Whereas China was the world’s largest arms importer in 2003-07, it has since decreased its reliance on imports. China’s indigenous defence industry, though, is still reliant to a large extent on foreign technology, adapting it to fit Chinese requirements. As China continues to develop its industry, its reliance on foreign – mainly Russian – technology will diminish.

    The escalation in arms procurements is not limited to Pakistan and India. The Indo-Pacific as a whole is the largest recipient of arms shipments, receiving 47 per cent of the world total. The primary underlying reason is the ongoing levels of high tension surrounding China’s claim to much of the South China Sea (named the Eastern Sea by Vietnam and the West Philippine Sea by the Philippines). These tensions have resulted in an increase in the indigenous defence capabilities of the countries in the region with particular note of South Korea’s export of their heavily modified version of the German Type-209 diesel-electric submarine to Indonesia. Indonesia’s order is not uncommon, with an increasing number of East Asian states, such as Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines all seeking to acquire or upgrade their submarine capabilities.

    The Pakistani armed forces use a mix of US and Chinese materiel. For example, the Pakistani Air Force operates the American F-16, alongside the Chinese and Pakistani co-developed JF-17 Thunder. The joint production of the JF-17 is important to Pakistan. It marks a significant development in its arms industry and may be presumed to bring Pakistan closer to Beijing, rather than relying on Washington, with which it has something of an on-off relationship. Additionally, Pakistan and China are suspected of being in the planning stages for the joint development of a 4.5-generation successor to the JF-17, in response to India’s acquisition of the French Rafale.

    A new South Asian arms race may ensue if New Delhi perceives Islamabad’s military acquisitions and closeness to China to be primarily directed towards it. Conversely, though, India’s own military expansion may, in turn, be fuelling Pakistan’s worries. With India in the process of developing an indigenous anti-ballistic missile defence shield, there is the possibility of a Cold War-type standoff emerging again between Pakistan and India.

    Gustavo Mendiolaza
    Research Analyst
    Indian Ocean Research Programme
    - See more at: Pakistan in the Middle, China?s Balancing Act and India?s Dilemma
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