Pakistan asks China to build naval base

23/05/2011

Speaking last week during a visit in Beijing, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani announced closer military cooperation between China and Pakistan. Islamabad offered a deal to China to build a naval base at the south western city of Gwadar and to maintain a regular military presence there. The proposal is expected to spark strong concerns in India and the United States. So far, leaders in Beijing have been reluctant to establish bases in foreign countries so as not to strain ties with the US and neighbouring countries. According to the Financial Times, analysts see the potential creation of out-of-area deployment of Chinese military as a key indicator for China’s intention to develop global military capabilities. Pakistan, originally a close US ally, has increasingly turned to China for defence acquisition and cooperation. The relationship between Washington and Islamabad has taken a further hit from the US raid against Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Gilani’s visit to China also included talks about the acquisition of 50 fighter jets and up to six new submarines with a combined value of some $ 4bn (€ 2.9bn). “The Chinese are new to this region and we welcome their presence. China’s growing presence serves to reinforce China’s capacity and interest well beyond its shores and Pakistan of course is very keen to see the Chinese here”, a Pakistani official told the FT. Meanwhile, the country continues to struggle with militant forces within its borders. In a large-scale attack by militants on a naval military base in the country's biggest city of Karachi on May 22 at least 10 government soldiers were killed and one military aircraft destroyed.