China, Pakistan kick off joint naval drill off Shanghai, with China-built warship from Pakistan joining
Published: Jul 10, 2022 07:03 PM
The PNS <em>Taimur</em>, the second of four Type 054A/P frigates China built for Pakistan, is commissioned at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai on June 23, 2022. Photo: Courtesy of the Pakistan Navy

The PNS Taimur, the second of four Type 054A/P frigates China built for Pakistan, is commissioned at the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai on June 23, 2022. Photo: Courtesy of the Pakistan Navy

With Pakistan's most advanced warship built by China participating, China and Pakistan launched a joint naval exercise off Shanghai on Sunday to further enhance military cooperation and deepen friendship, with Chinese analysts saying that the drills target maritime security threats, including those to strategic transport sea lanes.

Based on agreements reached by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and the Pakistan Navy, the two sides will hold joint naval drill Sea Guardians-2 in maritime and aerial spaces off Shanghai in mid-July, Captain Liu Wensheng, a spokesperson for the PLA Navy, said in a statement on Sunday.

An opening ceremony was held at a naval port in Wusong, Shanghai on Sunday, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on the day. The drills will last until Wednesday.

The PLA Eastern Theater Command Navy sent the frigate Xiangtan, the corvette Shuozhou, the comprehensive supply ship Qiandaohu, a submarine, an early warning aircraft, two fighter jets and a helicopter, while the Pakistan Navy's frigate Taimur joined the exercise, CCTV reported.

Themed "jointly dealing with maritime security threats," the exercise will feature training courses including joint strike against maritime targets, joint tactical maneuvering, joint anti-submarine warfare and joint support for damaged vessels, Liu said.

The drill's goal is to enhance defense cooperation, conduct professional and technical exchanges, deepen traditional friendship between the two countries and the two navies, and promote the development of the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between China and Pakistan, Liu said.

The exercise is a normal arrangement according to an annual schedule, and it is not aimed at a third party, the spokesperson said. 

China and Pakistan face non-traditional security threats including piracy and maritime terrorists in regions like the Indian Ocean, so it has become necessary that the two countries enhance cooperation in these aspects, Wei Dongxu, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The two countries also need to jointly demonstrate their capabilities in safeguarding strategic sea lanes that transport energy and goods, Wei said.

This is the second time a China-Pakistan joint naval exercise has been codenamed Sea Guardians. The first edition of the Sea Guardians exercise was held in January 2020 in the North Arabian Sea off Karachi, media reported at the time.

Wei said that the Sea Guardians drill could become routine between the two countries navies.

China and Pakistan enjoy a high level of strategic mutual trust, and the two countries' militaries engage in all types of exchanges. Now that the Pakistan Navy has commissioned more, advanced frigates, it has gained enhanced capabilities in distant waters, enabling it to conduct more joint activities with China that can further enhance the two countries' mutual trust and fulfill international responsibilities, Wei said.

Pakistan's vessel in the drill, the Taimur, is the second of four powerful Type 054A/P frigates built by China. It was delivered to the Pakistan Navy in Shanghai on June 23. The first ship in the Type 054A/P-class, the Tughril, joined the Pakistan Navy Fleet in January.

President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi said during the Tughril's induction ceremony that the Type 054A/Ps will not only serve to reinforce the security architecture of Pakistan's maritime zones across the country's maritime border, but also help safeguard the sea routes of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The newly delivered Taimur's participation in the drills indicates its high technical maturity, the success in the Pakistani sailors' training, as well as the rich experience accumulated by the Tughril, Chinese analysts said.