Pakistan Asks China to Build Naval Base in Nation

Sanya Submarine Base, Hainan Island, CHina (Image: DigitalGlobe satellite)

Pakistan wants China to build a naval base at a deep-sea port in southwestern Baluchistan province, its defense minister said May 22, while also inferring that Washington was a fair-weather friend.

Ahmad Mukhtar, who accompanied Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during a recent visit to China, said the request was made during the trip, when Pakistan thanked Beijing for constructing Gwader Port, on the Arabian Sea.

“However, we would be more grateful to the Chinese government if a naval base was being constructed at the site of Gwader for Pakistan,” Mukhtar said in a statement.

The deep-sea port was around 75 percent financed by China, which Pakistan has been trying to draw in as a strategic partner, especially since the discovery and U.S. killing on May 2 of Osama bin Laden north of Islamabad.

The commando raid rattled U.S.-Pakistan relations, with American politicians angered at how the al-Qaida leader had managed to conceal that he was living barely two hours from the Pakistani capital.

Gilani and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao have both made a point of lauding mutual ties, just as Pakistan finds itself under pressure about whether its security services knew where bin Laden was.

“China is an all-weather friend and the closest ally of Pakistan, and it could be judged from the fact that in whichever sectors Pakistan requested assistance during PM’s recent visit to China, they immediately agreed with Pakistan,” the defense minister’s statement said.

India, however, has voiced “serious concern” about defense ties between China and Pakistan and said it would need to bolster its own military capabilities in response.

New Delhi’s comments follow reports that China plans to accelerate supply of 50 new JF-17 Thunder multi-role combat jets to Pakistan.

Pakistan also last week opened a nuclear power plant in central Punjab province with Chinese help and said Beijing had been contracted to construct two more reactors.