China has launched first of the four advanced naval warships it is building for Pakistan, amid deepening economic and defence ties between the two all-weather allies.
The launching ceremony for the first warship was held at the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai on Sunday.
Pakistan-China defence ties turn a new chapter with the launch of the first ship of Type-054 class frigate, Pakistan’s state-run APP news agency reported.
The Type-054 class, equipped with the latest surface, subsurface, anti-air weapons, combat management system, and sensors will be one of the technologically advanced surface platforms of the Pakistan Navy fleet, the report said.
Pakistan signed a contract with the China Shipbuilding Trading Company Ltd. (CSTC) for the delivery of two Type-054 A/P frigates in 2017. Last year, the Chinese official media reported that under a major arms deal between the two all-weather allies, China would build four advanced frigates for Pakistan Navy.
The terms of the deal and the price of the ships were not revealed.
The launching of the ship coincided with the 2nd strategic dialogue between Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi held at the Chinese holiday resort of Hainan on August 21.
Meanwhile in Islamabad, Foreign Minister Qureshi said on Monday that China and Pakistan were strategic partners. He said the cooperative relationship between Pakistan and China was an answer to objections regarding the ambitious USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Addressing the media on his return from China, Qureshi said Pakistan and China were pursuing the project and its pace of implementation would increase and it would benefit the entire region.
The CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The CPEC is a collection of infrastructure and other projects under construction throughout Pakistan since 2013. Originally valued at USD 46 billion, the projects were worth USD 62 billion as of 2017.
India has protested to China over the CPEC as it is being laid through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The BRI was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes. It is seen as an attempt by China to further its influence abroad with infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments all over the world.