Our allies in Pakistan may still have a wee bit of a burr under their saddle after SEAL Team Six’s unscheduled house call in the suburbs of Islamabad. At the same time as leaders in Washington have been calling for a reevaluation of our relationship with them, prominent figures in that country have been suggesting the same thing. But everyone needs friends, right? Enter China, with a shiny new gift for Pakistan.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — China has agreed to immediately provide 50 JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan, a major outcome of a visit by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to Beijing this week, Pakistani officials said Thursday.
China and Pakistan have jointly produced the JF-17 aircraft, but the new planes would be equipped with more sophisticated avionics, the officials said. The latest jet fighters would be paid for by China, they said.
The announcement came as Pakistan’s already tense relations with the United States soured further after the killing of Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan on May 2.
Before we read too much into this, it’s worth noting that any tension between the United States and China these days is far more financial in nature, rather than seeing us poised on the brink of military conflict. But that doesn’t change the fact that China has historically been a thorn in our side where they pick sides with other countries with whom we have traditionally had chilly relations. (See: Iran.)
Is this a provocative move on the part of the Chinese? No doubt. It provides them with an opportunity to flex their burgeoning muscle on the world stage as they continue to expand in terms of both international trade and military presence. It’s worth noting that only this month there were confirmed reports that China’s first modern aircraft carrier could be heading out on its maiden voyage as early as this year.
Pakistan is looking to strengthen their hand in any upcoming negotiations and to reassure some of their citizens who are worried that they’ve been acting a bit too cozy with Washington. China gets to solidify their relationship in a region of geopolitical significance while strutting their stuff on the international stage. The real question is, what sort of response is available to the United States, if any?