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China, Pak set for joint naval exercises

Islamabad, Oct. 13: Pakistan and China will conduct their first-ever, two-day joint naval exercises in the East China Sea near Shanghai from October 18.

“Two Pakistani ships — PNS Nasr and PNS Babur — will sail to Shanghai later this week for the exercises which are likely to deepen the existing defence and strategic partnership” between the two countries, defence ministry officials said.

PNS Nasr is a warship as well as a refueller while the Babur is a Type 21 frigate, one of the six ships Pakistan had bought from Britain in the early Nineties. The package also included two Lynx helicopters.

The 700 crew aboard the naval ships and two Sea King helicopters will be part of the two-phased exercises.

Harbour operations will mark the beginning of the first phase while the second will be on the high seas.

“We hope that cooperation in the area of joint military exercises will further strengthen the armies and air forces of the two countries in the near future,” officials said.

They said the naval exercises have been planned in such a way that officers and sailors of the two countries get ample opportunities to benefit from each other’s experience in the vital areas of tactics and combat capabilities.

Pakistan and China have never held such a major naval exercise before. Pakistan armed forces, however, have participated in similar manoeuvres with the US and Turkey.

The Pakistan navy is also negotiating the purchase of six frigates from China to replace part of its ageing fleet under an ambitious programme aimed at modernising the entire fleet and naval aviation arm.

It had also placed orders for purchase of two missile boats from Singapore, which are currently under construction. These two boats are in addition to three state-of-the-art French Agosta 90 B submarines, which are being inducted into the navy under a 1995 agreement with France.

The first submarine was constructed in France and commissioned into the navy three years ago. The second is being built jointly by Pakistani and French engineers and has been undergoing tests on high seas and in the harbour.

The third submarine is being manufactured indigenously for which France has transferred complete technology to Pakistan.

The eleven French engineers killed in a bomb blast at Karachi in May 2002 had also been working on the submarine project.

Pakistan and China have been working closely in defence hardware for over three decades.

Besides helping Pakistan in shipbuilding, China has also supplied military aircraft including A-5s, F-7s, F-7PGs to Pakistan Air Force.

The two countries have just recently jointly manufactured JF-17 Thunder multi-role aircraft, which had its maiden test flight in August.

“The results of the exercise will be thoroughly evaluated on return of the ships to Pakistan to identify weak areas and to concentrate more on how the overall combat capabilities can be furthered,” said the ministry officials.

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