New Delhi: Chinese fighters have reached Islamabad to take part in the Pakistan Day parade, days after Beijing put a technical hold on the fourth proposal seeking a global terrorist tag for Masood Azhar, the chief of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
Pakistan observes its national day on 23 March, to mark the 1940 signing of the Pakistan Resolution, seeking a separate homeland for Muslims, by the All India Muslim League at Lahore’s Minto Park.
The parade this year will feature flypasts by Turkish F-16s and Chinese J-10 aircraft, besides paratroop contingents from the Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka armed forces.
The J-10 fighter jets of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s Bayi Aerobatic Team arrived in Pakistan Saturday, at a time when tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi are at a new high in the wake of the 14 February Pulwama strike, which was claimed by the JeM.
The arrival of the Chinese fighters, even if to perform aerobatic stunts at an annual event, at this point is seen as a display of the growing military ties between the two countries.
Former national security adviser Shivshankar Menon noted as much in a tweet.
Chinese fighter jets arrive in Pakistan for its national day parade – Global Times : Picking sides when tensions are high? https://t.co/8F6JdKaGz6
— Shivshankar Menon (@ShivshankaMenon) March 18, 2019
Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of International Relations, told China’s Global Times Sunday that Beijing sending fighter jets to celebrate Pakistan Day is symbolic of the bilateral friendship, noting that Pakistan is an all-weather friend of China.
This is, however, not the first time the Bayi Aerobatic Team has performed in Pakistan.
On 19 November 2017, the team staged a performance with J-10 fighter jets in Quetta, the capital city of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, where the Pakistan army is carrying out a military operation against secessionists.
Over the years, China has invested billions of dollars in Pakistan, including on the showpiece China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a part of Beijing’s ambitious Belt & Road Initiative. China has also replaced the US as the prime defence equipment supplier to Pakistan.
In addition to the J-10, analysts expect more Chinese elements at the Pakistan Day parade as the country operates a variety of Chinese weapons.
Close to war
India and Pakistan seemed to be on the verge of war last month as tensions soared after the Indian Air Force (IAF) attacked JeM camps in Pakistan Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on 26 February.
The next day, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) breached the Line of Control to launch a failed strike on Indian military installations. A dogfight ensued when the Pakistan jets were intercepted by IAF fighters, and both countries lost a plane each — India, a MiG-21 Bison, and Pakistan, an F-16.
While the Indian pilot, who ejected and fell into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), was captured and later returned by Pakistan, nothing is known of the F-16 pilot.
Despite India presenting evidence to claim that Pakistan had deployed a US-manufactured F-16 in the strike, the latter has claimed it used a JF-17, which is built in Pakistan with Chinese collaboration.
Check out My543, our comprehensive report card of all Lok Sabha MPs.