China is building one of its “most advanced” naval warships, considered “the largest and most powerful combat vessel” it has ever exported, for its ally Pakistan as part of a major bilateral arms deal to maintain “the balance of power in the Indian Ocean” and strengthen Islamabad’s military capabilities, the state-run China Daily reported Wednesday.
Pakistan has reportedly requested four combat vessels from China.
Citing the Beijing-owned defense contractor China State Shipbuilding Corporation, China Daily revealed, “China recently started construction of an export version of one of its advanced warships and will deliver it to Pakistan as part of a major arms deal. … It said the ship is a version of the Chinese Navy’s most advanced guided missile frigate, without specifying its type.
China is expected to equip the warship with detection and weapon systems, including anti-ship, anti-submarine, and air-defense missile capabilities.
“Once constructed, the warship will be one of the largest and technologically advanced platforms of Pakistan’s Navy and strengthen the country’s capability to respond to future challenges, maintain peace and stability and the balance of power in the Indian Ocean region. It will also support the Pakistani Navy’s initiative of securing sea lanes for international shipping by patrolling distant waters, it said in a statement on its twitter account,” the state-run news outlet added.
China Daily learned from an anonymous insider in China’s shipbuilding sector that the warship Beijing is constructing for Pakistan “is the largest and most powerful combat vessel China has ever exported.”
The China Daily report came a day after the Financial Times (FT), quoting two senior Pakistan government officials, revealed that China has agreed to lend at least $2 billion to cash-strapped Pakistan to help boost its dwindling foreign exchange and collapsing currency.
“China’s promise to Pakistan is an indication of their commitment to help us avoid a crisis. If the rupee falls sharply and we need to prevent its slide, we can turn to China,” an unnamed senior government official in Islamabad told FT.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has warned countries against China’s predatory lending practices “that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty, denying them their long-term, self-sustaining growth.”
China, however, has long provided financial and military assistance to Pakistan. Both Pakistan and China consider India to be a regional rival.
Late last year, a report by RAND Corporation noted that Pakistan is the biggest importer of Chinese weapons.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), partly funded by the United States, has also warned Pakistan against “excessive loans” from China, Reuters reported. Pakistan has reached out to the IMF for a loan.