Sub sales no cause for worry in India

By Qian Feng Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-15 23:58:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Pakistan's Federal Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain recently confirmed that China finalized an arms deal to deliver eight new submarines to Pakistan with four of them built in the latter, and the construction will start soon. Although there had been rumors about the deal, the news still sparked discussions in the region and the world.

The $4-5 billion deal is reportedly China's largest ever arms deal and can be a milestone in China's arms export. Some consider the deal as a new benchmark for China's arms trade that grows with its increasing military strength.

In this case, Indian media feels concerned that China would transfer the technology involved to Pakistan when delivering the conventional-powered submarines, which will break the military balance in South Asia.

Can China sell submarines and related technologies to Pakistan? What influence will the arms deal bring to the region?

By international practice, the deal will be a normal arms trade as long as the weapons exported conform to international treaties. And countries such as the US, Russia, Germany, Britain and France have exported far more conventional weapons than China for a long time.

Besides, the construction of submarines will be carried out in China and Pakistan simultaneously with four built in Karachi, which means China may transfer the submarine construction technology to Pakistan. But this is a proper pattern of cooperation that is accepted internationally.

The Scorpène-class submarines that India purchased from France in 2005 were developed in both countries. Recently, Japan decided to transfer the technology involved in building its state-of-the-art Soryu-class submarine to Australia if it seals the deal with the latter. Obviously, such exchanges are normal.

Moreover, Pakistan acquired conventional submarines to meet the needs of its national defense and security. So far, of eight submarines owned by Pakistani Navy, three Agosta-90B submarines and two Agosta-70B ones from France are the hard core, but they are mostly aging and need complete overhaul. The oldest one in the five vessels can date back to the 1970s, which makes it hard to meet the demands for modern naval warfare.

The Pakistani military has long considered purchasing submarines to replace some old vessels. It once wanted to acquire new-type conventional submarines from France and Germany, but failed to seal the deal due to factors like price and technology transfer. It finally picked China's conventional submarines out of the burning need to protect its maritime security and because of the high quality but reasonable price of Chinese products.

Some Indian media and observers are worried that by selling advanced submarines to Pakistan, China will alter the military balance in South Asia, particularly between Indian and Pakistani navies, and will strengthen its military presence in the Indian Ocean. This is groundless.

In terms of military strength, the Indian Navy has two aircraft carriers in service and is building a new indigenous one. It has 15 submarines, almost twice that of Pakistan.

More importantly, India's domestically developed nuclear-powered submarine, INS Arihant, has undergone several sea trials and will soon enter service. New Delhi is also planning at least six more nuclear-powered submarines.

In comparison, it will take eight to 10 years for Pakistan to incorporate the eight submarines from China into its combat capacity. It will be extremely hard to break the military balance of India and Pakistan with the latest acquisition. Pakistan is actually trying to prevent the gap between its naval strength and India's from widening.

The author is a councilor of the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies.

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