(TibetanReview.net, Dec11’20) – In an obvious message designed to convey their common intention, China and Pakistan are conducting joint air force exercises in the southern desert of the Islamic Republic near the border with India, reported asia.nikkei.com Dec 10. India has simmering territorial and border disputes with both the countries and is currently in a tense faceoff with an expansionist China across its Ladakh border.
The report noted that the drills had come just a week after Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe visited Pakistan and signed a memorandum of understanding for deepening military cooperation.
The exercises, dubbed Shaheen – or Falcon – IX, were stated to be underway at the newly operational Bholari air base in the arid region of Sindh in southern Pakistan, less than 200 km from the Indian border.
China was reported to have sent its fourth-generation Shenyang J-11 air superiority fighters and Chengdu J-10 multirole jets. Pakistan was stated to be flying a mix of third-generation Chinese-made Chengdu F-7 interceptors, French Dassault Mirage 5 attack planes and the new multirole JF-17 Thunder — jointly produced by China and Pakistan.
Pakistan has made it clear that no American equipment, such as the F-16, has been deployed.
China’s Defense Ministry has said the drills will “deepen practical cooperation between the two air forces.”
At the drills’ opening ceremony on Dec 9, Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Sulehri, the deputy chief of Pakistan’s air staff, has said the exercises “will further enhance interoperability of both air forces, thereby fortifying brotherly relations between the two countries.”
Major Gen. Sun Hong, the assistant chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, has said they “will improve actual level of combat training and strengthen cooperation.”
India has, in recent years, perceived China and Pakistan as a common threat and has been talking about the necessity to be prepared for a “two-front war” with them.
With an expansionist China, India currently has an ongoing faceoff across the Ladakh border, with both the sides rushing supplies and military assets even as efforts to resolve the issue through dialogue continues. It recently signed a series of security agreements – ranging from intelligence sharing to logistical support – with its Quad partners.
The “Quad” or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is a loose body made up of the United States, Japan, Australia and India. It is now being viewed as a democratic bulwark against China’s growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.
While the ongoing drills are not the first joint air exercise between the Chinese and the Pakistanis – the maneuvers are called Xiongying, or Eagle, when held in China – the timing, location and size are significant, the report noted.