THE MILITARY DIMENSION
will be run. Tellingly, one of the AIIB’s first projects was a $300 million motorway in Pakistan, part of CPEC.
Chinese officials say CPEC will ultimately benefit not only Pakistan but India and the region, as it is helping stabilise Pakistan. China’s primary interest, they insist, is stability in the neighbourhood, a prerequisite for its investments to succeed. “So this will ultimately also benefit India as well,” says a foreign ministry official. Not everyone in India might agree with that assessment. After all, the larger reason for China going all-out to boost Pakistan is what Chinese strategists describe as “seeking a favourable balance” in South Asia. In other words, China’s propping up of Pakistan is to ensure that India continues to remain challenged— and preoccupied—in its own neighbourhood, rather than emerge as a regional counterweight to China.
Beijing has been doing so on the military front for decades. China’s Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) leadership have deep historical and institutional ties with the Pakistani military, which many in Beijing see as having played a key role in ensuring ties remained close, despite periodic domestic upheavals in Pakistan.
As Pakistan’s military ties with the US grew rapidly during the ‘war on terror’, Beijing’s often outdated arms exports became less valuable. But with the US now scaling back and even reviewing crucial exports such as F-16 fighter jets, China’s support has become crucial. And Beijing appears more than willing to fill the gap. The two countries are jointly producing JF-17 Thunder light fighter aircraft, while talks for an export variant of China’s new fifthgeneration stealth fighter are ongoing. In August, both countries moved towards clinching China’s biggest ever military deal—the $5 billion sale of eight attack submarines likely to be deployed in the Arabian Sea.
Even CPEC has clear military