NEW DELHI: China is planning a military base in Pakistan, the India Today reported, citing a secret report prepared by the government’s joint intelligence committee.
According to the report: “China is keen to build military bases in Fata, or the Northern Areas, while Pakistan wants to counterbalance Indian naval forces by having a naval base in Gwadar. But it does not spell out the exact location of these bases.”
At a time when Pakistan-US relations are strained — chiefly over drone missile attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the covert Navy SEAL operation attack that took out Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil — China has made no secret of its interest in strengthening its own ties with the nuclear-armed nation.
Last Thursday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao hosted Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Beijing and vowed to support closer military exchanges between the countries.
“China and Pakistan pledged to strengthen military ties and bring existing cooperation to a new level,” Xinhua quoted China’s Defence Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie as saying.
“China values its traditional friendship with Pakistan,” Liang reportedly said, adding that Beijing hopes to develop “pragmatic and effective cooperation with Pakistan in national defence arena.”
General Kayani echoed Liang’s comments, saying that Pakistan “would continue to provide firm support to China on all issues concerning its core interests.” General Kayani said, however, that the relationship had been strengthened by frequent high-level visits, joint exercises and enhanced technological cooperation.
The paper reported that: “China’s deepening strategic penetration of Pakistan and joint plans to set up oil pipelines/ rail/ roads and naval and military bases are a matter of concern. The paper acknowledged that: “China’s desire for a military presence in Pakistan has been discussed by the political and military leadership of that country in recent months.”
It noted that the issue of Chinese bases in Pakistan was discussed during the visits of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to China and during a visit late last year of the ISI chief, Shuja Pasha, to Beijing.