- Pakistan is mired in a neck-deep debt crisis, thanks to the massive Chinese lending. Hence, when the Chinese government offers the Pakistani Army its drones, aircraft, helicopters and missiles; it has to buy them, even if it is suicidal.
- China gives Pakistan the stuff that finds no takers anywhere else.
- But Pakistan has nowhere to go, thanks to India’s rising clout in the world defence industry
With friends like China, one doesn’t need enemies. Pakistan is learning it the hard way as it begins rethinking military alliance with its “all-weather ally”—China.
A recent Economic Times report suggests that the defence partnership between China and Pakistan has come under strain due to poor military hardware being exported by the Chinese defence manufacturers.
Pakistan grapples with poor Chinese drones
This January, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had inducted three China-made armed drones into its fleet, displaying a strong sense of cooperation. China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) had sold these drones to the PAF. Of course, three Chinese drones are far less than enough for a big-sized air force like the PAF, but Pakistan is showing no willingness to expand its defence contract with the CATIC. The reason is the unavailability of the Chinese drones being supplied to the PAF.
“The Chinese-made Wing Loong II Unmanned Aerial Systems (UCAVs) have been grounded due to crippling defects within days of induction,” said Nisar Ahmed in Al-Mayadeen. Not only the Chinese drones delivered are of poor quality, but the post-induction maintenance and repair work being rendered by CATIC is dismissive too.
Chinese manufacturer abandons grounded Pakistani drones
CATIC is yet to respond to the desperate calls being made by the PAF to undertake the repairing work of the grounded drones. The company did provide some spares; however, unfit for use. The company did dispatch some engineers; however, totally clueless and incompetent. The Chinese drones remain grounded as the PAF now requests CATIC to send a team of good professionals.
As the ET report reveals, the most serious problem noticed in the Chinese UCAVs was leakage of nitrogen from Electro-Optical / Infra-Red(EO/IR) cameras, which rendered EO/IR systems useless. The PAF wanted an urgent replacement of the EO/IR pods; however, the Chinese manufacturer is showing no urgency in responding to the calls.
Major deficiencies in the Chinese drones
Apart from the defective Infra-Red cameras, these were the other major deficiencies:
- SATCOM failed during the launch and take-off stages. The SATCOM antenna failed during the ground Site Acceptance Test (SAT).
- Failure in rear fuel pump noticed.
- Refuelling equipment was found to be unserviceable.
- High-Performance Synthetic Aperture Radar fell into disuse within hours of operation.
The PAF has tried to rope the manufacturer to replace the defective equipment. Some spares provided by the company were found to be a mismatch for the drones sitting idle with the PAF, frustrating the Pakistani officials operating them.
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The fact is that the Sino-Pakistani relationship is based on opportunism and not on cooperation. Both China and Pakistan lack trustworthy allies. For instance, China doesn’t have many countries that can offer cheap military hardware. Pakistan is one of the few countries that seek to buy China-made defence products. Similarly, Pakistan doesn’t have many countries it can buy military hardware from. China is one of the few defence exporters it can look up to.
Also, Pakistan is mired in a neck-deep debt crisis, thanks to the massive Chinese lending. Hence, when the Chinese government offers the Pakistani Army its drones, aircraft, helicopters and missiles; it has to buy them, even if it is suicidal.
Why did Pakistan buy China’s poor military hardware?
In a partnership like that of China and Pakistan, there’s little room for differences and doubts. Only real friends are supposed to have differences, and the Sino-Pakistani relationship is more like a master-protégé’s one. Whatever the master says, the protégé has to follow.
So, China gives Pakistan the stuff that finds no takers anywhere else. China’s JF-17 “fighter jet” is another glaring example. The PAF lost two JF-17s on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, stoking concerns of their reliability in times of war. Pakistani pilots call them “the death traps” and show reluctance in operating them. Serviceability of these aircraft is already down to 40 per cent, according to an Indian Narrative report.
But Pakistan has nowhere to go, thanks to India’s rising clout in the world defence industry. Russia could have been a good partner for Pakistan. But given Moscow’s strategic partnership with New Delhi, Pakistan has got Russia’s consolations only.
With the blistering rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the security situation in Pakistan has changed from bad to worse. Terrorist attacks in Pakistan have touched a four-year high as the TTP terrorists set their eyes on Pakistan’s Northern provinces. Now with Chinese cheap and unviable defence hardware, Pakistan’s woes are only going to aggravate.