China on Monday asked India to “objectively” view the on-going month-long military exercises taking place between the Chinese and Pakistani air forces, amid increasing tensions with India.
Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday visited an air force base in the southeast of the country, in Sindh, to view the “Shaheen-IX” or Eagle-IX exercise, the ninth held between the Pakistan Air Force and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force since 2011. He said the manoeuvres would “improve combat capacity of both air forces substantially and also enhance interoperability”, Pakistani media reported.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday the exercise was “a regular arrangement”.
"As all-weather strategic cooperative partners, China and Pakistan have friendly exchange and cooperation in political, economic, military, security and a broad range of areas,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, when asked at a regular press briefing about whether the exercise reflected the two countries’ broader strategic posture towards India.
"We are committed to jointly upholding peace and stability in the region. The cooperation project you mentioned is a regular arrangement between Chinese and Pakistani militaries that doesn't target any third party,” he said. "We hope it will be viewed in an objective manner.”
The exercise taking place amid the COVID-19 pandemic showed “the profound friendship” between the two militaries, the Communist Party-run Global Times said earlier this month when the Chinese Defence Ministry announced that the drills would carry on until the end of December.
Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the newspaper “the confrontations between India-Pakistan and China-India will not affect the normal military exchanges between China and Pakistan”. "India's frequent military exercises with other countries have given it little reason to question normal military exchanges among other countries,” he was quoted as saying.
The Chinese Defence Ministry said the drills would “improve the actual combat training level of the two forces”, and did not reveal details about the aircraft involved. The previous exercise, held in China in August 2019, involved 50 aircraft, according to Chinese State media.
China and Pakistan on December 1 signed a new military memorandum of understanding to boost their already close defence relationship when China’s Defence Minister and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Wei Fenghe met Pakistan’s leadership in Islamabad and visited the headquarters of the army at Rawalpindi. He called on both countries to “push the military-to-military relationship to a higher level, so as to jointly cope with various risks and challenges, firmly safeguard the sovereignty and security interests of the two countries and safeguard the regional peace and stability,” State media reported.