Chinese Navy balances India’s ‘destabilising role’ in Indian Ocean: Pak Navy chief
Alleging that India is destabilising the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), the chief of Pakistan Navy has said the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) presence in the maritime area is important to maintain regional balance of power.
The expanding partnership between Chinese and Pakistani navies will also play an important role in maintaining peace in the IOR, Admiral M Amjad Khan Niazi told Chinese state media in an interview.
Asked if China is building a naval base in Pakistan, Niazi said visits by navies will not change the “commercial” nature of the Beijing-built Gwadar port, even as he welcomed the visit of Chinese naval ships including aircraft carriers to Pakistani ports.
He was speaking to the Chinese nationalist tabloid Global Times ahead of the multinational naval exercise AMAN-2021 to be hosted by Pakistan in February, where dozens of navies including from the US, UK, Japan, and Russia are expected to participate.
Besides the multilateral exercise, the two countries have a bilateral naval drill “Sea Guardians”, the last edition of which was held in the northern Arabian Sea in January 2020.
In the interview, Niazi accused India of destabilising the region, without evidence. “On our eastern side, India, with an expansionist mindset, is destabilising the region by actions that could imperil regional security,” he said when asked about the maritime security environment in the IOR.
He showered praise on China and its role in the IOR repeatedly. “The PLA Navy has been sending its flotilla to the Gulf of Aden since 2009, which has contributed significantly toward maritime security in Indian Ocean region.
“The PLA Navy’s consistent participation in Multinational Exercise AMAN since 2007 and conducting of bilateral exercises have been conducive to the overall maritime security environment in the Indian Ocean region.
“The PLA Navy’s presence in the Indian Ocean region is thus an important element in maintaining the regional balance of power and promoting maritime security.”
Niazi went on to outline how valuable the cooperation between the navies of China and Pakistan is as the former continues to equip the latter’s sea forces with latest warships, submarines, and new technologies.
“Naval collaboration between the two countries has been strengthened with the procurement of F-22P frigates, fast attack craft (missile), helicopters and state-of-the-art survey ship. The PN has also contracted construction of eight Hangor-class submarines, four Type 054A/P ships and medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicles from China,” the Pakistani navy chief said.
Pakistan is also looking to China to enhance its long-range anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare capability through induction of long-range maritime patrol jets, unmanned combat aerial vehicles and modernising our existing fleet with state-of-the-art weapons and surveillance systems, Niazi said.
“We are also looking at acquisition of modern helicopters, corvettes and shallow-water attack submarines,” he said.
Niazi also spoke on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and how the Gwadar port is the initiative’s lynchpin.
Cooperating with the Pakistani navy gives China reach across the IOR and the Arabian Sea, close to India’s west coast. For Pakistan, it’s access to weapons and technology to counter India.
“Chinese Navy hosts a number of modern and technologically advanced platforms in their inventory. Operating with these modern and high-tech platforms affords us an opportunity to refine our tactics and procedures,” Niazi said.
“It is heartening to know that the PLA Navy now operates two aircraft carriers. The PN would like to conduct an exercise with these carriers whenever an opportunity arises. Moreover, the PLA Navy and PN ships regularly visit each other’s ports. In the same stride, the PN would continue to welcome further visits by PLA Navy ships, including aircraft carriers,” Niazi said.