On August 23, China launched the first of four advanced naval warships to be delivered to the Pakistani Navy as part of a 2017 contract between Pakistan and China Shipbuilding Trading Company Ltd. The Type-054 A/P class vessel was reportedly constructed at the state-owned Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai and is equipped with the latest advanced surface, subsurface, and anti-air weapons systems and sensors. Local Pakistani media also claims that the guided-missile frigate is the largest combat vessel to be sold by China to a foreign navy. The other three warships are set for delivery in 2021. The terms and pricing of the contract have not been disclosed.
Chinese media has previously claimed that the warships will double the Pakistan Navy’s combat power. The new vessels fit into a trend of a robust military-technical partnership between China and Pakistan, in which China supplies approximately 70% of Pakistan’s weapons.
Increased defense cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad is progressing against the backdrop of the seemingly dual-use development of Pakistan’s infrastructure and transport networks under the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. There is mounting speculation that China is planning to establish a naval base at Pakistan’s Indian Ocean port of Gwadar, where Chinese companies have already invested significantly and been responsible for the development of much of the port and its associated facilities. There have also been reports that the People’s Liberation Army has been involved in the construction of the Karakoram Highway, China’s primary land-based pathway that links China to Pakistan, connecting to CPEC infrastructure.