Pakistan and China showcased their all-weather friendship on Monday with the launch of one of the biggest joint military exercises in decades.
The war games that began on Monday near Jhelum followed speculation over whether China will step in to fill the economic, military and diplomatic void if Pakistan’s relationship with the US further deteriorated.
The army termed the exercise a “true manifestation of a famous Chinese phrase that Pakistan-China friendship is higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans.”
“This is the first time that brigade-level war games are being staged by Pakistan and China,” said a senior security official, suggesting that it reflected long-term engagement between the two countries.
According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the two-week-long exercises are aimed at “mutual exchange of experience and information through a comprehensive training programme in real time”. “This exercise is the fourth in a series in which special forces from both sides will participate,” it added.
The war games named “YOUYI-IV” will also be attended by senior military leaders from both sides, said the statement. “These exercises were mandated to boost the existing professional relationship between the two friendly armies.”
It was the fourth joint military exercise between the two countries since 2004. The exercises come amid sharp digs at Pakistan from US Republican presidential hopefuls during a debate held on Saturday.
A leading candidate described Pakistan as nearly a failed state while another suggested Washington cut foreign aid to Pakistan to zero.
However, both Islamabad and Beijing have dismissed suggestions that their war games are aimed against any country.
“The US should welcome the joint exercises between Pakistan and China because all three countries share common objective to defeat extremism,” said defence analyst General (retd) Talat Masood.
General Talat even went as far as to say that he was hopeful that “one day Pakistan and India would conduct similar war games together.”
An American diplomat, contacted to give his view on the matter, played down the development saying the US had no concerns over the growing friendship between Pakistan and China.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2011.