Pak-China Strategic Partnership And Defense Interoperability – OpEd


The relationship between Pakistan and China is one of the strongest in the world, and their cooperation is not limited to economic ties only. The two countries share a deep and longstanding strategic partnership, with military cooperation being a vital component of that relationship. By working together, Pakistan and China ensure the growth of their military capabilities which is able to offset the incoming challenges and counter regional developments of countervailing coalitions.

South Asia is an environment characterized by fluid alignments, the makeup of Pakistan-China coalition is forged upon a geostrategic and geo-economic interests. China’s commercial heft provides Pakistan with immense benefits, because the economic coalition with China helps Pakistan offset the coercive leverage which regional and global players try to exert upon Pakistan. Correspondingly, a technological coalition with china ensures Pakistan’s ability to capture the commanding heights of innovation in the 21st century. Similarly, lessons from a governance coalition of Chinese statecraft rules and norms assist Pakistan in the right direction to become regionally powerful. The first coalition is geostrategic and focuses on enhancing Pak-China cooperation, in order to deter India from using force or coercion against Pakistan. There is no doubt that China is succeeding in its primacy in the Indo-Pacific, Pakistan can use cooperation with China as a springboard for more expansive regional goals. This underpins a long-running military buildup as well as more recent efforts to enhance military interoperability. 

Recently, the visit of Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir to China has further strengthened the bond between the two nations, particularly in the area of military interoperability. Military interoperability is defined as the ability of two or more military forces to operate together effectively. This cooperation requires not only similar equipment and training but also communication, coordination, and the ability to share intelligence. China and Pakistan have been working on enhancing their military interoperability for several years now, and this has been evident in various joint exercises and military exchanges between the two countries.

COAS’s visit to China was aimed at further strengthening the military cooperation between the two nations. During his visit, he met with senior Chinese military officials. The two military leaders discussed various issues of mutual interest, including regional security, counter-terrorism, and military cooperation. General Zhang Youxia, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) – the highest command of the Chinese military, led by President Xi Jinping – met with COAS to discuss mutual security interests and military cooperation, the two military commanders reaffirmed the need to maintain peace and stability in the region while promoting military-to-military cooperation, a series of discussions with military officers aimed at enhancing the two armed forces’ long-standing.

Pakistani military is going to further deepen and expand their pragmatic cooperation and jointly safeguard the common interests of the two countries, as well as regional peace and stability, Army chief’s overarching goal in this visit is to China as major ally and partners at the center of Pakistan’s foreign policy, which is clearly visible in Southeast Asia. Joint Military exercises are a clear demonstration of the enhanced military interoperability between China and Pakistan. The two countries have been conducting joint military exercises for many years now, and the scope of these exercises has expanded over time. The two nations also conduct joint army exercises, naval exercises, and counter-terrorism exercises. These exercises, are held annually, are aimed at enhancing the interoperability and cooperation between the air forces of Pakistan and China. The exercise involves various activities, including joint air drills, aerial refueling, and combat planning. The two countries have increased the frequency of joint military exercises, which are becoming more complex and interoperable. They are also sharing equipment and engaging in more sophisticated joint exercises.

The enhanced military interoperability between China and Pakistan has significant implications for regional security. The two nations share a common interest in maintaining stability in the region, particularly in Afghanistan. The cooperation between China and Pakistan in this regard is essential for promoting stability and peace in the region.

The cooperation between China and Pakistan in the military sphere is not limited to joint exercises only. The two nations have also been cooperating on defense production and technology transfer. China has been a significant supplier of military hardware to Pakistan, including fighter jets, submarines, and missile systems. In addition, China has been helping Pakistan in the development of its indigenous defense industry, which includes the establishment of joint production facilities for the manufacture of fighter jets and other military equipment. Increasingly compatible arms supply chains and networked communications systems allow these countries to aggregate their defense capabilities. The geostrategic and economic challenges presented by China’s rise also point to the need for a technological coalition. China’s efforts to overtake the world’s most advanced industrial economies have led the CCP to build “national champions” in key technology areas such as semiconductors, robotics, and information technology. As part of its Made in China 2025 plan. The world has focused primarily on 5G networking, there are a number of other advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, automation, and biotechnology that will be critical to the industries of the future. China being a pioneer in these, Pakistan can massively benefit from these ventures while strengthening its technological coalition with China.

The cooperation between China and Pakistan in the military sphere is not without its challenges, however. Both countries are facing increasing pressure from the United States, which sees their cooperation as a threat to its interests in the region. The United States has been critical of China’s military expansion and has accused Pakistan of providing a safe haven to terrorist groups. 

From Pakistan’s perspective, preserving a favorable balance of power between US and China is necessary to prevail in the global competitive environment. And if the balancing shows promise then Pakistan can capitalize on its relationship from both of its partners. China is Pakistan’s one of core allies among the few arrayed network of security partners.  Pakistan is seeking out potential areas of cooperation with both of its partners while keeping guard rails in its US-Chinese relations to avoid unnecessarily escalations on either side, more so by remaining equidistance between Washington and Beijing.

Despite the challenges, the military cooperation between China and Pakistan is likely to continue to grow in the coming years. Both countries have a shared interest in maintaining stability in the region, and their cooperation is essential for achieving that goal. The enhanced military interoperability between China and Pakistan is a testament to the strength of their strategic partnership and their commitment to working together for regional peace and stability.

In conclusion, the military interoperability between China and Pakistan has been significantly enhanced in recent years. The two nations have been working together to improve their communication, coordination, and joint operations capabilities, and this has been evident in various joint military exercises and defense production projects. The visit of Pakistan’s

Asma Khan Durrani is an expert in Strategic Affairs. She is a student of Defense and Strategic Studies. She has done M.Phil. from SPIR Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad. She has also been published internationally. She tweets @AsmaKhan_47

Asma Khan Durrani

Asma Khan Durrani is an expert in Strategic Affairs. She is a student of Defense and Strategic Studies. She has done M.Phil. from SPIR Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad. She has also been published internationally. She tweets @AsmaKhan_47

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