Beijing: China and Pakistan have held naval drills in the Arabian Sea, the Chinese military has said, with both sides looking to deepen interchangeability between their navies in the Indian Ocean.
A Chinese naval fleet arrived in Karachi on Saturday. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said it comprised the guided-missile destroyer Changchun, guided-missile frigate Jinzhou and supply ship Chaohu for a four-day visit. “The Chinese naval fleet will also hold a joint drill with Pakistani Navy flotilla in the Arabian Sea of the northern Indian Ocean”, the PLA said.
Five surface ships and two ship-borne helicopters of the two navies will join the drills on “formation movement, joint escort, helicopter landing on each other’s ships, as well as joint air defence”.
China’s ships and submarines have been visiting Karachi with increasing frequency. Chinese officials insist that the purpose of the frequent passages of their ships and submarines through the Arabian Sea was to boost capacity for escort missions aimed at anti-piracy in the Gulf of Aden, although experts have questioned this rationale considering that submarines have little operational use for anti-piracy operations.
The exercises with Pakistan come as China goes ahead with developing the Gwadar port that it has been managing on the Arabian Sea, part of its China Pakistan Economic Corridor plan.
Karachi is, for now, a crucial lynchpin for Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean, with Sri Lanka in the past two years declining Chinese requests for port calls after India voiced its concern when the previous Rajapaksa government gave Beijing the green light.