China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu has urged Pakistan’s Navy Chief Amjad Khan Niazi to explore “new fields of cooperation” between the two countries’ militaries to enhance their capabilities in safeguarding the region’s security. While both countries have had a longstanding military relationship with bilateral exercises between their navies and air forces, China’s interest in the region has raised concerns, particularly in India. China sees Pakistan and its access to the Arabian Sea as a strategic asset in the event of a maritime blockade in the Strait of Malacca.
During Niazi’s recent visit to Beijing, Li emphasized that the military relationship between the two nations is a key part of their bilateral ties, and urged the militaries to expand into new areas of exchange to enhance their ability to deal with risks and challenges. He also called for joint efforts to maintain the security interests of both countries and the region.
This meeting follows Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission Zhang Youxia’s meeting with Chief of Army Staff Asim Munir in late April, where he assured that the Chinese military is willing to deepen and expand cooperation with Pakistan’s military. However, China has not disclosed whether it has sought military access to Pakistan’s deepwater port of Gwadar.
The Pentagon had previously identified Pakistan as a potential location for a Chinese military base, with Gwadar as the likely location, but China has not confirmed this. Any sign of this happening would fuel India’s concerns about growing Chinese military assets and alliances in its own backyard. In 2022, India expressed concern over a Chinese survey ship’s visit to a strategic port in Sri Lanka, and in 2014, Sri Lanka angered India when it allowed a Chinese submarine and warship to dock in Colombo.
The military relationship between China and Pakistan has been longstanding, with both countries collaborating on defense equipment and technology. In recent years, China has also invested heavily in infrastructure projects in Pakistan, including the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
As China continues to assert its presence in the region, its military relationship with Pakistan is likely to grow stronger, and India will need to closely monitor these developments to safeguard its own security interests.