- KARACHI - In an historic,
but, unannounced development, the Peoples Republic of China sharply reduced
a marked imbalance between the Indian and Pakistan Air Force by sending
five ships -- in a space of only 10 days late last month -- loaded with
cargo ranging from cartons of unassembled brand new combat aircraft and
a variety of air force-related weapons and equipment to the port in Karachi,
senior Pakistani officials confirmed.
Separately the Chinese government made a speedy delivery of spares and
related equipment for Pakistan's strategic assets through Korakram highway,
a little before the snow created major obstacles on this crucial communication
line between Pakistan and China before Christmas. Pakistan's extensive
missile defence system has been raised with an active support of the Chinese
The senior officials said that in an unprecedented gesture of friendship
to Pakistan, the Chinese government had sent the ships sailing for Karachi
before President General Pervez Musharraf met Chinese President Jiang Zemin
for a crucial dialogue that coincided with the peak of border tension between
Pakistan and India on December 21.
On more than one occasion during President Pervez Musharraf's visit to
China in December, the Chinese leadership reiterated that China's friendship
with Pakistan "was deeper than the oceans and higher than the mountains."
This timely assistance from China that instantly enhanced the combat capability
of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) by "several squadrons of brand new Super-7
and F-7 fighter aircraft" also narrowed a dangerous 1:2 ratio of air
force planes between India and Pakistan.
Before the Chinese assistance reached Pakistan last week, the Indian Air
Force had 730 aircraft as compared to PAF's 340. Because of the military
security reasons, Pakistani officials are withholding the exact number
of fighter aircraft added to the PAF with Chinese assistance in the last
For the last several years, the Aviation Industry of China and the Aviation
Integrated Company of Pakistan had been working on a joint plan to build
a light-weight multipurpose fighter aircraft. The project was completed
late last year with production ready in time for shipment to Pakistan.
Pakistani military officials consider the proposed S-7 fighter aircraft
as a variant of China's F-7 fighter plane family, but with an increased
manoeuvrability, an engine with increased thrust, advanced avionics equipment
and modern cockpit configuration. These officials said the S-7 has night
combat capability. The integrated close range combat effectiveness of the
S-7 is 90 per cent higher than that of the original F-7 family.
Before the arrival of PAF cargo from China late last month, the air force
had arrangements ready to shift the unassembled aircraft from the Karachi
port to various PAF facilities where Pakistani and Chinese officials worked
together to assemble and deploy them in a record time.
The Pakistani officials noted that since coming to power, President General
Pervez Musharraf has developed extremely close personal ties with Chinese
President Jiag Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji. Because of the Indian ban
on Pakistan to use its air space, the officials said, Premier Rongji had
personally desired that President Musharraf should take the trip after
an overnight stopover in Beijing on board a Chinese government aircraft
as Chinese pilots were better trained to fly in that difficult airspace
and weather. Before leaving for the SAARC summit, President Musharraf had
taken a special meeting on the PAF preparedness in the wake of the Chinese
According to the Pakistani officials, after the recent induction, the PAF
has developed increased capacity in the event of war to interdict Indian
naval and cargo vessels in the Indian ocean, besides devoting more resources
to strike Indian military targets in its key cities and cantonments.