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China silent on Pak’s navy parade absence, clubs New Delhi ties with Islamabad

China’s defence ministry on Thursday remained silent on the reason behind the absence of any Pakistani warship at this week’s high-profile maritime parade to mark Chinese navy’s 70th anniversary.

world Updated: Apr 25, 2019 19:26 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China,World news,Pakistan China Navy Parade
Chinese president Xi Jinping reviews a naval parade with Chinese and foreign military ships held in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the sea near Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong Province, Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (AP photo)

China’s defence ministry on Thursday remained silent on the reason behind the absence of any Pakistani warship at this week’s high-profile maritime parade to mark Chinese navy’s 70th anniversary.

It also clubbed New Delhi’s decision to send two warships to the event with the “broad support of the international community” for it, and said the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) was keen to strengthen ties with both India and Pakistan.

India had dispatched its largest destroyer, INS Kolkata and the largest supply ship, INS Shakti for the international fleet review -- inspected by President Xi Jinping – to mark PLAN’s founding day on April 23 on the Yellow Sea off the eastern Chinese port city, Qingdao.

India sent to frontline battleships despite the Indian navy’s heavy deployment in the Arabian Sea. It followed heightened tension with Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack in February and the skirmish between the two air forces in March-end.

As reported by HT on April 7, that’s apparently why Islamabad wasn’t able to dispatch any warship and instead send Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi, Chief of the Naval Staff of Pakistan to take part in the PLAN event.

Beijing appeared to take no notice of “iron brother” Pakistan’s inability to send ships to sail at the maritime parade.

“The multinational activities were widely echoed and supported by the international community. More than 60 counties sent their naval delegations and 13 countries sent their ships which were 18 in total including Indian ships,” senior colonel Ren Guoqiang said at the monthly ministry briefing in Beijing on Thursday.

“We believe the activities will undoubtedly contribute to the friendship and mutual ships between the PLA Navy and its world counterparts,” Ren said, responding to specific questions on the Indian navy’s participation at the parade and the Pakistan navy’s absence.

Ren then talked about China’s military ties with Pakistan, and, for some reason, clubbed it with India.

“At the same time, China always attaches great importance to the military-to-military relations between China and India and also China and Pakistan,” he said.

“We are ready to make more efforts with the two nations to push forward the military relations and exchanges,” he said.

The India dispatched the indigenously built, INS Kolkata, to the event showed that New Delhi attached importance to the prestigious event.

It’s also true that the two navies have been sizing up each other in international waters – for reach and influence.

“Overall, the China-India maritime dynamic is an increasingly frigid one with Delhi wary about what it perceives to be Beijing’s creeping encroachments in its traditional sphere of influence, the Indian Ocean,” Ben Ho, a naval analyst with the Military Studies Programme at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said.

“India’s recent fortifying of its military position in the strategically located Andaman and Nicobar Islands is arguably a response to the Chinese navy’s Indian Ocean forays. In public, China reacted guardedly to this development, but it is likely that PLAN chieftains will regard the new base in Andaman and Nicobar with caution,” Ho said.

“It is, therefore, telling that Beijing recently deployed two of its most-capable warships – including a Type 052C missile destroyer with “Aegis-like” capabilities – for low-intensity anti-piracy patrols off Somalia. This is likely to be strategic messaging on the part of the Chinese, and it evinces yet the increasingly competitive nature of the China-India maritime dynamic, which is unlikely to take a turn for the better in the near future,” he argued.

First Published: Apr 25, 2019 18:15 IST