China-Pakistan Current Affairs
China has agreed to sale 48 Wing Loong II high-end armed drones to its all-weather ally Pakistan. This is China’s largest export deal for drones to date to any country. The cost of this deal with Pakistan and or when the drones will be delivered were not revealed. Total of 48 Wing Loong II UAVs will be jointly built by China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corp (CAC) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) Karma. China also has reportedly sold this unmanned aerial system to countries like UAE and Egypt at estimated $1 million per unit. It has also sold the Wing Loong I to Indonesia, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates.
Wing Loong II
It is a high-end reconnaissance, strike and multi-role endurance unmanned aerial system, capable of being fitted with air-to-surface weapons. It is manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company. It had made its maiden flight in February 2017. It is upgraded version of Wing Loong I unmanned aerial system.
It is designed for both reconnaissance and strike missions. It is 11 metres long and has wingspan of 20.5 metres. It can payload up to 480kg (1,060lbs), including 12 laser guided missiles or YJ-9E anti-ship missiles. It is powered by turboprops and can fly for up to 20 hours at speeds of 150-370km/h. It can fly at maximum altitude of 9,000 metres (29,500 feet).
Its system is composed of ground station and various numbers of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It has capability to attack and destroy stationary targets, moving targets, time sensitive targets and air-ground coordination. It is roughly equivalent to American MQ-9 Reaper drone. But US drones like MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper are technologically more advanced compared this Chinese drone.
China-Pakistan Defence Relations
China is the largest supplier of weapon system to the Pakistan Army. It accounted for 70 % of Pakistan’s arms purchases in 2013-17 period, up from 45% in the previous five years, although sales by volume changed little. Both countries also jointly manufacture JF-Thunder a single engine multi-role combat aircraft. This aircraft has been in mass production in Pakistan and sold to Myanmar and Nigeria. Pakistan has also produced its own drone named Burraq which had made its first flight in 2015 and is believed to have been based on China’s multi-purpose medium-range CH-3 drone system.
Pakistan has invited Saudi Arabia to join $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as the third strategic partner. Formal request in this regard was made after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Saudi Arabia during his first foreign trip after getting elected.
Saudi Arabia is first country that Pakistan has invited to become partner in CPEC. Pakistan’s main interest in inviting Saudi Arabia in CPEC is to ensure huge investment from cash rich gulf country. This invitation comes after Pakistan concern over rising debt levels have especially due to unsustainable loans from China for CPEC projects, compromising cash-strapped Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Projects as part of CPEC in which Saudi Arabia will be investing will be smoothed out during visit of Saudi Arabia’s Finance and Energy Ministers to Pakistan in the first week of October 2018. During this visit, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will also finalise important economic partnership.
Note: Saudi Arabia has long history of financially bailing out Pakistan during economic crisis. Saudi Arabia had loaned Pakistan $1.5 billion in 2014 to strengthen its rupee currency, six months after Pakistan obtained its last IMF bailout.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
CPEC is flagship project as part of China’s multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), aimed at enhancing China’s influence around the world through China-funded infrastructure projects. CPEC aims to construct and upgrade transportation network, energy projects, deep-water port at Gwadar and special economic zones (SEZs) to eventually support Pakistan’s industrial development as manufacturing hub by 2030. CPEC will linking Gwadar in South Western Pakistan to China’s North Western region Xinjiang through vast network of highways and railways. The proposed project is financed by heavily-subsidised Chinese loans, disbursed to Pakistan Government by Chinese banking giants such as China Development Bank, Exim Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.