Beijing: China has officially confirmed what is its biggest ever military deal, the sale of eight attack submarines to Pakistan which many experts say may be deployed in the Arabian Sea and challenge India’s interests in the Indian Ocean Region.
The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation held a meeting in Beijing “to discuss details of the arrangement”, according to a report in a shipping industry newspaper.
Talks for the deal, estimated at more than $5 billion, were announced from Islamabad earlier this year, but Beijing was yet to confirm it. Four of the submarines are to be built at the Karachi shipyard, with the rest in China.
The China Shipbuilding Heavy Industry held a meeting on October 12 to confirm details of the deal, attended by its chairman Hu Wenming, China Shipbuilding newspaper reported. The report was later published by the Chinese military’s official website.
The first four diesel-powered electric submarines will be delivered by 2023, and the rest by 2028. The submarines are thought to be export variants of the PLA’s Type 39A – also known as Type 41 – Yuan-Class submarines, with a depth of 300 metres. Its weaponry will be tailor-made for Pakistani requirements.
The export of eight attack submarines, Hu said, was aimed at promoting China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, in which Pakistan is the fulcrum. China is building an economic corridor to Pakistan under the plan, through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and is investing in developing the Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea which is being billed as the OBOR’s centre point.
Hu said he hoped exports of submarines to Pakistan would take place in the future “on a regular basis” and that China’s “iron brother” played a key strategic role in the neighbourhood. The company is also eyeing exports of submarines to the Latin American market, he said.
According to reports from Pakistan, the deal will be financed by a low interest-rate loan from China to cover costs of the project, including the manufacture of four submarines at Karachi.