China helping Pakistan Army build defence infrastructure along LoC: Officials

Pakistani army soldiers military weapons

China has been helping the Pakistan Army build its defence infrastructure besides providing Unmanned Aerial and Combat Aerial Vehicles, setting up communication towers and laying underground cables along the Line of Control, officials said.

This, according to the officials, is part of efforts to further shore up China’s position as an all-weather friend of Pakistan while ensuring the safety of the growing Chinese enclaves on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) set up on the pretext of securing the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) road and hydel projects built in the occupied territory.

The officials said that the recently developed SH-15, a 155 mm truck-mounted howitzer gun, has also been spotted at some places along the Line of Control (LoC) after it was displayed on Pakistan Day last year.

Known as a ‘shoot and scoot’ artillery weapon, Pakistan had signed a contract with Chinese firm North Industries Group Corporation Limited (Norinco) for the supply of 236 SH-15s and, according to London-based Janes Defence magazine, the first batch was delivered in January 2022.

Though the presence of senior PLA officials at forward posts, as was detected in 2014, was not found, some intercepts suggested that Chinese troops and engineers were setting up infrastructure along the LoC, including building underground bunkers, the officials said.

The Army has officially maintained silence on the issue but has been constantly updating the intelligence agencies, sources said.

The Chinese military’s presence, according to experts, is due to Beijing’s 46-billion-dollar CPEC under which Gwadar Port in Karachi will be linked to China’s Xinjiang province through the Karakoram highway, an area under the illegal occupation of China.

The officials suggested that Chinese experts were digging some tunnels in the Leepa Valley located in PoK, preparatory to building an all-weather road that will serve as an alternative route to reach the Karakoram highway.

It may be mentioned here that a Chinese telecom company took over Pakistan’s telecom company in 2007 and formed China Mobile Pakistan (CMPak), which is a 100 per cent owned subsidiary of China Mobile Communications Corporation.

In August last year, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), while renewing the mobile licence of CMPak (Zong) for PoK, gave permission for expanding Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS) in the region.

India has strongly objected to the presence of the Chinese in Gilgit and Baltistan regions in the past, and officials said the Army was completely prepared to frustrate any moves from across the border.

India and Pakistan have been observing a ceasefire since February 25, 2021.

Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University who has been part of a think-tank on Indian policy towards China, feels that arms transfers to Pakistan are part of a design to secure China’s interests in the region.

He said that in line with its often-stated stand of being Pakistan’s “all-weather” friend and to balance India by pursuing the overall regional dominance policy, Beijing has stepped up its arms transfers to Pakistan.

“China had initiated an Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2014 in violation of sovereignty concerns of India in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

“In addition to road expansion of the Karakoram Highway, China has sent an estimated 36,000 ‘security guards’ into PoK to protect its hydro-electricity projects and other infrastructure projects from terror attacks,” he said.

Kondapali said that China had also been constructing “well-off society” villages in PoK.

“Modern warfare also requires 24/7 surveillance and China has been supplying 10 CH-4A drones, specifically designed for high-altitude missions over land and sea that can fire from up to 5,000 metres, in addition to 48 Wing Loong-II drones, used as a surveillance and aerial reconnaissance and precision strike platform, to Pakistan since 2018,” he said. 

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