China selling advanced warships to Pakistan is bad news for India – and America


RT: As the first frigate for Islamabad’s navy was launched this week, Beijing sent a statement of intent that it has various ways and means to stop the US and its allies encircling it.

Over the past several years, India and China have increasingly become geopolitical competitors.

While the Galwan Valley border clash last year was epitomized as the biggest trigger, the mutual distrust runs much deeper and wider, not least as the United States has used India as a strategic counterweight to China’s growing power, as part of its ‘Indo-Pacific’ strategy.

In response, Beijing has solidified its economic, strategic and military partnership with Pakistan, India’s primary adversary.

While China and India continue to trade at a high level, surpassing $100 billion recently, this strategic game is firmly locked in place, and the newest development affirms this.

It has tilted from China feigning neutrality on India-Pakistan disputes, to it being much more explicit in backing Islamabad against New Delhi. Yesterday, China’s state run tabloid the Global Times announced that Beijing had “delivered to Pakistan the largest and most advanced warship China has ever exported,” selling them a Type 054A/P frigate built by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited (CSSC).

The PNS Tughril is the first of four frigates being constructed for the Pakistan Navy. The ship is a highly capable platform with large surface-to-surface, surface-to-air and underwater firepower, as well as possessing stealth and surveillance capabilities.

While Pakistan has long been integrated with China’s military-industrial complex, this naval deal marks a new milestone, not only in the message it sends to India, but also in being yet another step Beijing is taking to offset Western efforts of maritime military containment around it. These efforts were accelerated with the launch of the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal earlier this year. In doing so, Pakistan’s contribution to this contest now cannot be ignored.

On paper, the People’s Republic of China has only one true ‘treaty ally’ – a country it guarantees to defend militarily – and that is North Korea, even though its relationship with Pyongyang has not functioned as a complete alliance since the end of the Cold War.

Beyond this, Beijing has maintained a longstanding foreign policy tradition of ‘non-alignment’, which crystalized during the Sino-Soviet split in the 1950s and 1960s and saw Mao Zedong pivot to support the developing world. In the decades since, China has maintained this position, at least at face value, in an effort to not antagonize the United States (which worked for a long period) and to not divide the world into dangerous Cold War blocs.

However, the world is changing. Some commentators, such as Chinese-American political scientistMinxin Pei, have argued that the inauguration of initiatives like AUKUS meant China would “lose” an arms race.

The US has indeed attempted to rally allies against Beijing anyway, with the specific focus being in the maritime sphere, with the ‘Quad’ grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the UK. All of this has involved ramping up naval exercises in the South China Sea and around China’s periphery. With China not having as many formal allies, and Beijing’s foreign policy anxiety of ‘encirclement’, the key strategic question for their policymakers has been, “How do we respond to this strategic reality in the maritime domain?”

It is China’s emerging response to this question that shows that commentators such as Pei are being short-sighted. Beijing has moved to utilize a growing number of differing strategic partnerships, inviting other countries into the game to focus on countering specific adversaries where there is a common interest.

For example, this included its first ever joint maritime patrol with Russia last month around Japan. Few contemplated that China would also play the ‘Pakistan card’, giving New Delhi and Washington pause for thought in the western Indian Ocean. The relationship between Beijing and Pakistan, which is often known as ‘China’s Iron brother’ is a formal alliance in all but name, tailored for power projection, yet informalized for strategic flexibility.

Away from the military sphere, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will become a primary strategic and commercial route to bypass the Indian subcontinent, access the Red Sea and make China’s supply routes less vulnerable to maritime attack in the East, and to avoid being “cut off” during any conflict.

Pakistan is a very important military counterweight to India. While the country is regarded in the West for being poor and often unstable, it is wrong to call it weak. Sometimes, the size comparison with an even larger India can make it seem weaker than it is. Pakistan is a nuclear power with the world’s sixth largest army and a population of over 220 million. If China can succeed in developing it, it has more economic potential than many countries in the West. And its long running conflicts with India make it almost indispensable to Beijing.

Beijing is drawing in specific quasi-allies, for specific purposes in pushing back against the US-led coalition. Traditionally, Pakistan is a land power, due to the strategic realities of its wars with India in the disputed Jammu & Kashmir territories of the northeast. For a country of its size, Pakistan’s navy is tiny. It has just two destroyers, five frigates, and two corvettes. Bar some submarines, the rest are just patrol boats.

The UK’s Royal Navy has two aircraft carriers, six destroyers and 12 frigates, while India has more than 150 ships. So what is China’s plan? It’s to help build up Islamabad’s navy as a regionally targeted strategic counterweight that ensures that India, the US, and its allies do not gain hegemony over the western Indian ocean. Beijing can then focus its own resources on the South and East China Seas and Taiwan straits, while drafting in other players.

The trend is quite clear. If the US is going to encircle China with foreign navies, then China will seek to counter that by not just building up its own navy, but also enticing other countries to do so too in their areas of interest.

It’s easy to dismiss this week’s news as no big deal, ‘China sold a ship to Pakistan, so what’, but it’s certainly not true. It marks a strategic shift by Beijing to sell bigger and stronger state-of-the-art ships to de facto allies; it was not willing to do so in the past but circumstances have changed. The more China arms and builds up Pakistan, the more difficult it becomes for New Delhi to focus on joining containment efforts against Beijing, and the weaker its geopolitical hand becomes, as it is bogged down in its own neighbourhood.

For now, it is uncertain as to whether China can upgrade alliances with any other countries, bar its partnership with Russia. Attempting to do so with Iran would rock the boat regionally in the Middle East; they are likewise prohibited from doing so with North Korea because of UN sanctions. But using its informal method of technically non-aligned, strategic partnerships, Beijing has found an answer to the US-led militarization against it, while it continues to ramp up its own capabilities.


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  1. The upside of Iran being part of a China led military alliance is that ‘when’ not ‘if’ Israel starts a war so that it can grab the land that it wants to own in Syria and Iraq it will need to think twice before doing so.

    Trump will be illegally reinstated in the office of US president in 2024 because the Republicans have put people in place to ensure only the votes that give Trump power are counted.

    The US has done whatever it can to stop Syria and Iraq being rebuilt and the JCPOA agreement with Iran has not been reinstated.

    The US Congress has already discussed not recognizing Putin if he is re-elected in 2024.

    Going to war so that Israel can steal the land it wants in Syria and Iraq will be strategically a very bad idea for the US but with a corrupt president in place who will be prepared to ignore all good military strategists it will take place anyway. Will India be involved thanks to the Quad or will it just be Australia and the UK who tag along?

  2. Russia and Pakistan are getting ready for the next US/Israeli led war in the Middle East so that Israel can take the land in Syria and Iraq that it believes it owns.
    The Republicans have already put people in place to overthrown votes that do not favour Trump in 2024 so that he wins, the 6th January 2020 was just a practice run.
    The Quad is so India will be involved.
    For Israel to own significantly more land in the region which will include large parts of Iraq and Syria they will:
    1) First need these two countries to be significantly weakened – this has been done over the past decade
    2) Stop the rebuilding efforts using sanctions etc. – this is the current US policy
    3) Disrupt Iran’s economy – Biden has not agreed to the JCPOA agreement.
    4) Not recognise Putin as the leader of Russia when he is re-elected in 2024 – this has already been proposed by members of the US congress.

  3. Not buying that Pakistan being supported by China is bad for America. America has too flippantly given over to aceeding to an anti Pak tilt in spite of all that they have done to enable even the U.S.drone murder of its citizens on Pak soil… The U.S. let India in nuclear buyers legality but denied Pakistan as they battled their extremist citizens. And now with India turning Kashmir into Gaza with U.S. silence. The U.S. got a lot from Pakistan but gave mostly just happy talk. Ding…. Times Up….!!!!!

  4. Tired & effete against young & dedicated. Worse yet look at Nato and the other U.S. allies. Too many gnome’s plus Britian & France. Where”s the muscle. Furthermore, all hostile surface warships anywhere near China Will be on the bottom almost immediately after hostilities commenced. Missiles will rule the day, not slow shops!! I suspect all ships may be easy targets for missile’s and that the submarine could be more of a jobs program to keep the big bucks flowing to the contractors than the stealth threat they are advertised to be.

  5. Why would upgrading alliances with Iran “rock the boat” in the middle east?
    Is not China already rocking that boat, and what boat could possibly sink?
    And who would care if it did.

    • It’s not “a” boat that would sink, its ALL the boats that would sink. Some possibly VAPORIZED to underscore resolve. What if the Confederacy had escaped & seized Bermuda and was antagonistic toward to Washington after the civil war. Suppose China decided to protect them. What would happened. Maybe the U.S. would have let it ride while it was weakened and exhausted after hostilities ceased. But do you really think the U.S. would have let them thumb their nose at them forever..??

  6. This does nothing to change the simple fact that any war between India and Pakistan would go nuclear within hours. The Union of Concerned Scientists say that in such a war if even 100 nuclear-tipped missiles of the type used by these two nations were found their way to their targets, the ensuing result would bring on nuclear winter and a massive drop in food production all over the planet. On the bright side, nuclear winter would be the only viable “fix” for global warming and take care of human over-population on the planet as well. The Rapture-me-outta-here folks in the USA all say, “Bring it on!”

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