China has announced the sale of eight attack submarines to its close ally Pakistan, widely considered to be one of Beijing’s biggest military deals with an estimated value of about $5 billion.
Reports in the Chinese state media and the military’s official website quoted China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation chairman Hu Wenming as confirming the submarine deal, which had been in the pipeline for long.
The deal comes at a time when military cooperation between Pakistan and the US has taken a nosedive. US lawmakers recently blocked a move to subsidise the sale of eight F-16 jets because of concerns that Pakistan isn’t doing enough to combat terrorism.
The China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation held a conference on October 12 to discuss details of the deal, China Shipbuilding Online reported. Hu confirmed the “project to export eight attack submarines to Pakistan” at the conference.
In August, members of the standing committee of defence of Pakistan’s National Assembly had been informed by naval officials about the deal for the eight Chinese submarines. Naval officials had also said that four of the diesel-electric submarines will be built at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works.
China is expected to deliver the first four submarines by 2023 while the others will be completed by 2028. All the submarines will be fitted with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems.
Both countries have not identified the type of submarine to be supplied by China but analysts have speculated that it could an export variant of the Chinese Navy’s Type 039 and Type 041 Yuan-class vessel.
China, which is Pakistan’s largest supplier of military hardware, is expected to provide a long-term loan at a low interest rate for the submarine deal worth between $4 billion and $5 billion.
China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation chairman Hu was quoted as saying that the conference held on October 12 aimed to continue the spirit generated by President Xi Jinping’s speeches on the Belt & Road Construction Work Symposium in August. The $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a key part of Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative aimed at spurring economic development.
The conference was also aimed at promoting “timely and high quality export projects”, Hu said.