Beijing: In what is likely to spark concern in the Indian Ocean region, China is reportedly building four "most advanced" naval warships for its "all-weather ally" Pakistan. The construction of first of the four warships has already been initiated, confirmed the Chinese state media. The weapon will emerge as a major boost for Pakistan's Navy arsenal, as it is equipped to handle anti-ship, anti-submarine and air-defence operations, reports said quoting officials of Beijing's public ordnance firm - China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC).
The CSSC did not specify the ship’s type but said it is being constructed at its Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. The ship’s class is Type 054AP, which means it is based on the Type 054A of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, the report quoted the Pakistani Navy as saying. The Pakistani Navy previously said four such ships had been ordered, according to the report.
Once constructed, the warship “will be one of the largest and technologically advanced platforms of the Pakistani 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,” the report said. It will also support the Pakistani Navy’s initiative of securing sea lanes for international shipping by patrolling distant waters, the daily quoted the CSSC as saying.
The mention of the Indian Ocean is regarded as significant as China, which has already taken over Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar port under the multi-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), looks to assist the Pakistani navy to restore the balance of power in India’s backyard. China has acquired the logistical military base in Djibouti and taken over the Hambantota port of Sri Lanka under a 99-year debt swap deal.
China recently denied a report that it finalised a plan to build advanced fighter aircraft under the CPEC in Pakistan, adding a military dimension to it. India protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Pakistan became the first country to hook on to China’s BeiDou Satellite Navigation System, a rival to the US Global Positioning System (GPS) which went global recently. The system was expected to be used for military applications.
The report said Type 054A is the best frigate in service with the PLA Navy. Military sources said the ship has a fully loaded displacement of about 4,000 metric tonnes and is equipped with advanced radars and missiles. About 30 Type 054As are in service with the PLA Navy. An insider in China’s shipbuilding sector with knowledge of the Type 054AP programme said that the ship is the largest and most powerful combat vessel China has ever exported.
“Based on pictures circulating on the internet, the ship will have vertical launch cells that can fire Chinese HQ-16 air-defence missiles and other kinds of missiles. Vertical launch cells will bring flexibility to the user in terms of weapons portfolio, thus giving it a stronger fighting capability,” he said, adding that the Type 054AP is the best frigate Pakistan can access in the international market.