21 November 2023

China & Pakistan Launch First Ever Joint Naval Patrol West into Arabian Sea


The Chinese and Pakistani Navies have together embarked upon a joint Naval journey into the Arabian Sea, a move signaling the People’s Liberation Army - Navy’s continued expansionist ambitions to extend its influence and project power on a global scale beyond the Pacific theater.

A PLA Navy destroyer was joined by two PLA frigates, a replenishment ship and submarine support ship on the joint patrol alongside two Pakistani frigates and an anti-submarine patrol aircraft, according to a news report published by the Chinese-government backed Global Times newspaper.

Chinese Global Expansion

The Pentagon’s annual China report and numerous Congressional research studies have in recent years consistently documented China’s well-known ambition to become the preeminent global power by its centennial in 2049. However, the pace of Chinese military modernization continues to stagger and shock the global community, and many observers are of the view that the PRC may seek to accelerate this timeframe. China now operates the largest Navy in the world and has in recent years been vastly expanding its global presence, to include military outposts in Djibouti, Africa, economic influence into the African continent as well as new initiatives in Peru, South America and the Middle East.

This first-of-its-kind joint patrol with Pakistan into the Arabian Sea signifies a new ambitious step forward for the PLA’s fast-growing global influence. There are several key factors associated with this kind of patrol, not the least of which is a Chinese Naval ability to essentially “surround” the Indian peninsula. Clearly the PLA Navy already operates in the Bay of Bengal East of India as it seeks to solidify and increase its presence throughout SouthEast Asia, particularly along its Belt Road Initiative and Digital Silk Road efforts designed to extend an economic and logistical corridor between mainland China, SouthEast Asia and further West into Pakistan and parts of the Middle East.

An interesting research essay from Army Pacific Command details the evolution of various PLA initiatives leading Westward through SouthEast Asia, moving resources and opening up new waterways. The report points to this initiative as a key element of the Belt Road Initiative and its follow on Digital Silk Road.

“Recent agreements with countries such as Cambodia on Ream Port and Sri Lanka on the Port of Hambantota provide strategic positioning and expanded access to the region's waterways,” the Army Pacific text states.

Similarly, these existing initiatives likely support and extend to what the Chinese paper refers to as the Pakistan-Chinese Economic Corridor (PCEP), a collaborative venture between the two countries to strengthen economic and military coordination in the form of commerce, supply routes and Naval exploration. The PCEP was listed by the Chinese paper as the key reason for the joint Pakistani-Chinese Naval patrol Westward into the Arabian Sea. The Chinese paper also points to collaborative shipbuilding and design efforts connecting the two countries, stating that Pakistan’s vessels were indeed built by China.

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