VIEW­POINT: CHI­NESE SUB­MARINES TO PAK­ISTAN – EYE ON IOR

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - The views ex­pressed herein are the per­sonal views of the au­thor.

China re­cently con­firmed the sale of eight at­tack sub­marines to Pak­istan, what is its big­gest ever mil­i­tary deal es­ti­mated to be over $5 bil­lion. The sub­marines are re­port­edly ex­port vari­ants of the Peo­ple’s Liba­ra­tion Army’s (PLA) Type 039A — also known as Type 41 — Yuan class sub­marines, with a depth of 300 me­tres. Their weaponry will be tai­lor-made suit­ing Pak­istan’s naval re­quire­ments. The first four diesel-pow­ered elec­tric sub­marines will be de­liv­ered by 2023, and the rest by 2028. Four of the sub­marines are to be built at the Karachi ship­yard, with the rest in China. Ac­cord­ing to Hu Wen­ming, Chair­man of China Ship­build­ing Heavy In­dus­try, the ex­port of these eight at­tack sub­marines is aimed at pro­mot­ing China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ ini­tia­tive, launched by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in 2013, in which Pak­istan is the ful­crum. Hu added he hoped ex­ports of sub­marines to Pak­istan would take place in the fu­ture “on a reg­u­lar ba­sis” and that China’s “iron brother” plays a key strate­gic role in the neigh­bour­hood.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports from Pak­istan, the deal will be fi­nanced by a low in­ter­est rate loan from China to cover costs of the project, in­clud­ing the man­u­fac­ture of four sub­marines at Karachi. The 3,000-km­s­long China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC) which ac­tu­ally is China’s strate­gic high­way to the In­dian Ocean. The CPEC is sup­pos­edly to ser­vice China’s en­ergy and goods de­mands from the Gulf al­beit mov­ing the same goods by sea is 11 times cheaper. CPEC is a mas­ter­stroke of Xi Jin­ping which gives China tremen­dous strate­gic ad­van­tage while cost­ing lit­tle to the Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment: should Straits of Malacca and Sunda get blocked, China has CPEC as al­ter­na­tive; Gwadar as Chi­nese nu­clear sub­ma­rine base (be­ing built gratis) dom­i­nates eastern end of Per­sian Gulf, giv­ing lever­age to China; CPEC con­nec­tion to Pak­istan’s Omari naval base makes it ac­ces­si­ble to China, giv­ing greater dom­i­na­tion over the Ara­bian Sea cou­pled with Gwadar and Karachi, and; rail link of CPEC and mul­ti­ple de­vel­op­ment projects pro­vide av­enue for move­ment and de­ploy­ment of weapon sys­tems, even rail-mounted mis­siles to sup­port fu­ture op­er­a­tions in the In­dian Ocean re­gion.

Gwadar is the ful­crum where the CPEC and China’s Mar­itime Silk Route (MST) con­verge, with strate­gic im­pli­ca­tions for In­dia and the re­gion. The China-Pak­istan nexus does not bode well for In­dia. The strate­gic lodg­ment of China in Gil­git-Baltistan and de­vel­op­ment of the CPEC has re­sulted in Pak­istan height­en­ing proxy war on both In­dia and Afghanistan. It is pretty clear that China wants to keep In­dia con­fined to South Asia and keep our eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in check as she con­sid­ers In­dia an eco­nomic com­peti­tor. In her pur­suit of rev­o­lu­tion in mil­i­tary af­fairs (RMA), China went for mass de­vel­op­ment and de­ploy­ment of sub­marines, giv­ing greater prece­dence over ac­quir­ing air­craft car­ri­ers. China’s sale of sub­marines to Pak­istan would in all prob­a­bil­ity be de­ployed in the Ara­bian Sea to chal­lenge In­dian in­ter­ests in the In­dian Ocean re­gion. Pak­istan has al­ready in­di­cated plans to arm these Chi­nese sub­marines with nu­clear weapons. In a re­lated in­ter­est­ing de­vel­op­ment, Sergei Che­me­zov, CEO of Rus­sia’s Rostec State Cor­po­ra­tion, has in­di­cated that his com­pany is ready to strike a $12-bil­lion deal with In­dia to man­u­fac­ture six con­ven­tional sub­marines.

Ac­cord­ing to him, these these sub­marines with Air In­de­pen­dent Propul­sion sys­tems will be built un­der the P75(I) project of In­dia. Che­me­zov, close aide of Pres­i­dent Putin, said that Rus­sia is In­dia’s close ally, not just busi­ness part­ner; Rus­sia stood by In­dia in its “dark­est hour” and would do the same in fu­ture, if nec­es­sary. He stressed that it would never be pos­si­ble for the Amer­i­cans and Euro­peans to of­fer In­dia what Moscow could, adding, “We are ready not just to de­liver most se­ri­ous weapons, most im­por­tant weapons, but con­tinue to give our state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy. Next year will mark 70 years of our re­la­tion­ship. It is a long time. There is no doubt that Rus­sia has been In­dia’s most trusted friend who has also given us lat­est tech­nol­ogy. Amongst other equip­ment, Rus­sia leased the first nu­clear sub­ma­rine to us and now is giv­ing the S-400 sys­tem that will be a game changer in the sub­con­ti­nent since it can take on air­craft and even drones at a range of 400 km. How­ever, there is lit­tle doubt that the In­dian Ocean is fast be­com­ing the cen­tre of grav­ity of fu­ture con­flict and the un­holy China-Pak­istan nexus will usher in much tur­bu­lence.

Chi­nese Type 041 Yuan class diese­l­elec­tric sub­marines SSK

LT GEN­ERAL P.C. KA­TOCH (RETD)

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