China has sold Pakistan a powerful missile tracking system in an unprecedented deal that could speed up Pakistan military’s development of multi-warhead missiles, the South China Morning Post reports.
News of the sale – and evidence that China is supporting Pakistan’s rapidly developing missile program – comes two months after India tested its most advanced nuclear-ready intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range long enough to hit Beijing or Shanghai.
India dubs Pakistan and China– close allies, as its rivals and seeks to
Chinese authorities declassified information about the deal on Wednesday.
A statement on the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) website said China was the first country to export such sensitive equipment to Pakistan.
“The system’s performance surpassed the user’s expectations,” it said, adding that it was considerably more complex than Pakistan’s home-made systems. It did not reveal how much Pakistan paid for the system.
The Chinese team enjoyed VIP treatment during the nearly three months it spent in Pakistan assembling and calibrating the tracking system and training technical staff on how to use it, according to the statement.
Zheng Mengwei, a researcher with the CAS Institute of Optics and Electronics in Chengdu, Sichuan province, confirmed to SCMP that Pakistan had bought a highly sophisticated, large-scale optical tracking and measurement system from China.
The Pakistani military recently deployed the Chinese-made system “at a firing range” for use in testing and developing its new missiles, he said.
India and Pakistan are in a heated race to build up their nuclear weapons capabilities as deterrent and to maintain strategic balance.
While India’s single-warhead missiles are bigger and cover longer distances, Pakistan has focused its efforts on developing multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), a type of missile carrying several nuclear warheads that can be directed towards different targets.
The US Defense Intelligence Agency officially confirmed in March that Pakistan conducted the first test launch of its nuclear-capable Ababeel missile in January 2017, “demonstrating South Asia’s first MIRV payload”.
The technology has the potential to overwhelm a missile defense system, wiping out an adversary’s nuclear arsenal in one surprise attack.
There are growing concerns that MIRV technology will tip the strategic balance between India and Pakistan and destabilize the subcontinent.
India has so far not found success in building a system that can effectively deliver more than one nuclear warhead at a time.
It has been a long-held notion that Beijing is supporting Islamabad’s missile development program. But solid evidence can seldom be found in the public domain, making the CAS statement a rarity.
Both countries call each other ‘iron brothers’ and have embarked on a multi-billion dollar (62bln) trade and economic corridor construction which will connect China with the Middle East and beyond through Pakistan’s newly built Gwadar port on the Arabian sea shoreline in Balochistan.
Pakistan’s hosting of the gateway is anticipated to be a game-changer in the region warranting multilateral and multifaceted full spectrum security and defense related measures.