The Chinese and Pakistani navies started their joint naval exercises off the coast of Shanghai. The drills are set to last four days and involve Pakistan’s most advanced China-built battleship. The activities will lay the groundwork for deeper “security cooperation” between China and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean.

According to statements made by both nations, they conducted the exercises with the intention of “jointly dealing with maritime security threats.” According to a source in the Communist Party-controlled Global Times, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command Navy stated that the frigate Xiangtan, the corvette Shuozhou, the supply ship Qiandaohu, two fighter jets, and a submarine would participate in the military exercises.

According to a statement released on Sunday by Captain Liu Wensheng, a spokesperson for the PLA Navy, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and the Pakistan Navy have entered into an agreement that will allow the two naval forces to undertake a joint naval drill called Sea Guardians-2 in the maritime and aerial spaces off the coast of Shanghai in the middle of July.

The military drills will supposedly enhance the capacity of the Pakistan Navy to deal with maritime threats to guarantee coastal defense. According to Moil Ul Haque, it will also allow them to continue to uphold peace and stability and preserve the delicate power dynamics in the Indian Ocean region.

China Central Television (CCTV) stated that an opening ceremony was hosted at a naval port in Wusong, located in the Shanghai metropolitan area. The exercises are scheduled to run through Wednesday.

This is the second time a joint naval exercise between China and Pakistan has been given the pseudonym “Sea Guardians.” According to media reports, the inaugural iteration of the Sea Guardians exercise took place in the North Arabian Sea off the coast of Karachi in January 2020.

Improving ‘Defense Collaboration’

“The Indian Ocean,” from an atlas by John Bartholomew and Co., 1912, published by the Edinburgh Geographical Institute. (Source: John Bartholomew and Co., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

According to Liu, the exercise aims to improve China and Pakistan’s defense collaboration, comport technical and professional interactions, develop a more profound customary friendship between the two countries and the two naval forces, and enhance the growth of an all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between the two nations.

According to the spokesman, the activity is a routine arrangement that occurs yearly and is not directed toward a third party. However, Wei Dongxu, a Chinese military expert, told the newspaper that because China and Pakistan confront non-traditional security issues such as piracy and maritime terrorists in regions such as the Indian Ocean, it has become necessary for the two countries to strengthen cooperation in these facets. 

Pakistan as a “Puppet”

China’s strategic plan involves amassing significant portions of Indian territory in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and building an “all-weather road” to the Gwadar port to gain access to the Indian Ocean, according to Deccan Herald. Pakistan has willingly allowed itself to be a puppet in China’s geopolitical region’s play of access.

Dunmu Voyage Training Detachment of the Republic of China Navy conducted domestic flight training around the island, and the honorary naval team held the flag of three soldiers. (Source: Max ChangCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Before entering a joint military exercise with China, according to a report by Business Standard, Pakistan had negotiated a loan facility agreement with a Chinese consortium of banks of 15 billion yuan, equivalent to approximately 2.3 billion US dollars. This deal was concluded to assist Pakistan’s “cash-strapped economy” in the aftereffect of shrinking foreign exchange reserves and the depreciation of its national currency value.

Over the past three decades, China has significantly increased its engagements in the Indian Ocean region. As a result, Brookings stated that the American and Indian military experts are now concerned that China’s growing naval presence, combined with its use of so-called “debt-trap diplomacy,” could provide China with constructive military benefits far from its coastlines. It will also be easy for China to use that diplomacy to use military troops from benefiting economies such as Pakistan to grow Chinese Forces since they are concealed as allies, not instruments of the possible occupation.

With all the help China has offered to Pakistan, it provided a considerable advantage for the Chinese government to undertake their motives ahead of the Indian Ocean. The Chinese government has used Pakistan as the easiest way to access the Indian Ocean by bombarding the impoverished country with cash flows and loan assistance from the Chinese government, having its wide eyes on the area. 

China is also acting up as a “friend” for them to make the most out of the access they got from the resources they have given to Pakistan. While they mask all their motives as “joint” exercises to promote mutual benefit against security threats posed in the Indian Ocean, it cannot be denied that China is a superpower country using underdeveloped and economically challenged countries to supersede more territories in the future.