New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS): China and Turkey are going all out to consolidate Pakistan's defence arsenal even as the country's external debt continues to accumulate and the Imran Khan government finds itself on a sticky wicket yet again ahead of this month's plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.
While 'iron brother' China launched a second advanced warship for Pakistan in Shanghai last week, Turkey - its only other all-weather ally - also held a welding ceremony of third ship of MILGEM class corvettes for Pakistan Navy at the Istanbul Naval Shipyard (INSY).
The launch of the second Type 054 Class Frigate was held at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard on Friday with the Pakistani Navy highlighting how warship's induction will enhance country's maritime defence and deterrence capabilities.
The first of the four warships of Type-054 Class Frigate constructed by China for Pakistan was launched in August, last year.
"Technologically advance platform fitted with latest Surface, Subsurface, Anti-air weapons, Combat Management System & Sensors will strengthen PN combat capabilities & maintain peace & stability in IOR," Pakistan Navy tweeted Saturday.
In Istanbul, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistan's Ambassador to Turkey Muhammad Syrus Sajjad Qazi jointly kicked off the MILGEM class corvettes project by performing the block welding.
The contract for four MILGEM class corvettes for Pakistan Navy with concurrent Transfer of Technology (ToT) was signed with ASFAT Inc, a Turkish state owned Defence contractor in 2018. The ToT entails construction of two corvettes at Istanbul Naval Shipyard and another two at Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KS&EW).
Erdogan highlighted deep-rooted relationship between the "two strategically aligned nations" and underscored the defence collaboration for construction of MILGEM class warships as major milestone in Pak-Turkey defence ties.
The MILGEM class corvettes will be surface platforms equipped with modern surface, subsurface and anti-air weapons and sensors integrated through a network centric Combat Management System.
These ships, said Pakistan Navy, will augment its "kinetic punch" and will significantly contribute in maintaining peace, stability and "balance of power" in Indian Ocean Region.
Pakistan Navy's top officers are now regular visitors to Ankara and Beijing, just like the country's ships now frequently call at their ports.
Last month, after taking over the command of the Pakistan Navy in October, Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi visited the Turkish Fleet Headquarters at Golcuk Naval Base and also the Istanbul Naval Shipyards where he was briefed on the current status of the ongoing construction of the first corvette of the 'Jinnah' Class Corvette Project.
During his visit, Niazi, who was conferred with 'Legion of Merit of the Turkish Armed Forces' by Turkish Naval Forces Commander Admiral Adnan Ozbal, also called on Turkey's President of Defence Industries Ismail Demir.
After being commissioned in November at the Black Sea Port of Constanta in Romania, Pakistan Navy's new Corvette – a Damen OPV 1900 named PNS Tabuk - visited Turkey's Port Aksaz on her return passage to Pakistan. On departing the port, Tabuk participated in coordinated patrol with Turkish Navy ships.
The Commanding Officer of the ship, in a meeting with Aksaz Naval Base Commander Rear Admiral I Kurtulus Sevinc discussed "matters of mutual interest", including Kashmir.
Discussing Kashmir to further foster the "brotherly relations" between both the countries comes naturally to Pakistan and Turkey.
Pakistan Navy Ship Zulfiqar, with embarked helicopter, had visited Port Aksaz in October 2020 to participate in Turkey-led Mavi Balina 2020 multinational Anti Submarine Warfare exercise. During the stay, Commanding Officer of the ship had called on senior naval officials and dignitaries, including Sevinc and Flag Officer Commanding Aksaz Naval Base to discuss Kashmir.
In March, another Pakistan Navy Ship Yarmook - the first ship commissioned at Constanta Port - had visited Golcuk during its voyage back to "develop interoperability" with Turkish Navy. The Commanding Officer of PNS Yarmook had also called on important authorities of Turkish Navy to discuss Kashmir.
At the same time, China continues to strengthen Pakistan Navy, enhancing its ability with new assets and joint Sino-Pakistani naval exercises.
"Pakistan Navy is enlarging its marines, which now operates from Gwadar into a division-sized force. China funds the marines defending Chinese interests at Gwadar and PN's Special Service Group Navy (SSGN) originally trained by US Seals is planned to grow into a brigade-sized force by 2023. China is enabling Pakistan to set up a network-enabled warfare capability with satellite feeds to monitor the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) like the Indian Navy employs Centrix provided by the US Navy," Commodore Ranjit B Rai, a former Naval Intelligence and Operations Director, wrote in Indian Defence Review, last year.
Meanwhile, India and the new Joe Biden administration in Washington will be closely watching the proceedings at this month's Aman-2021 exercise scheduled to be held in the water area of the Pakistani port of Karachi.
Besides China and Turkey, the Russian Navy has confirmed the participation of its Black Sea Fleet (BSF), including a frigate, a patrol ship, a rescue tug, a Marine Corps unit, a demining squad and a sea-based helicopter, in the exercise.
It is expected to be held at around the same time when FATF meets virtually from February 22 to 25 to consider blacklisting Pakistan as it continues to abate terrorism.