BEIJING: Amid an ongoing joint exercise, Chinese and Pakistani naval warships are for the first time conducting a joint maritime patrol in the northern Arabian Sea, a move, experts said on Thursday, was part of the two countries’ concrete actions to safeguard the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s Type 054A frigate Linyi and the Pakistan Navy’s F-22P frigate Saif formed a task group and launched the joint patrol in waters around major maritime routes and port channels in the northern Arabian Sea, as the China-Pakistan Sea Guardian-3 joint exercise entered the sea phase on Tuesday,” the PLA Navy said in a press release on Thursday.
“This marks the first time that the PLA Navy and the Pakistan Navy have held a joint maritime patrol,” observers said.
The joint patrol is an important part of the Sea Guardian-3 joint exercise, which is dedicated to displaying the two countries’ common duties and firm determination in safeguarding CPEC, according to the press release.
During the joint patrol, the two sides conducted training that included joint search and rescue operations, formation manoeuvering and VBSS (visit, board, search and seizure), effectively enhancing their capabilities in jointly dealing with maritime security threats, the PLA Navy said.
During another part of Sea Guardian-3, six warships, including the PLA Navy’s Type 052D destroyer Zibo, Type 054A frigate Jingzhou and Type 903 replenishment ship Qiandaohu as well as the Pakistan Navy’s Type 054A/P frigate Shah Jahan, formed a task group and launched the sea phase of the drill in the northern Arabian Sea, the PLA Navy said in a separate press release.
They practiced multiple training operations, including VBSS, aerial photography, air defence, communications and joint anti-submarine training during the first day of the sea phase, with warships from both sides taking turns to act as the command ship, according to the PLA Navy.
Kicked off at the Karachi Naval Dockyard on Saturday, the Sea Guardian-3 consists a port phase from Saturday to Monday and a sea phase from Tuesday to Friday.
Explaining the differences between the joint patrol and the sea phase of the joint exercise, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday that a joint patrol “is a military presence that allows fast response to emergencies and safeguards security in a region, while a joint exercise is training with preset goals and targets”.
“The Arabian Sea is important to both China and Pakistan in terms of goods and energy transport, highlighted by CPEC that connects the two countries’ economic activities, so it is important for the two countries to safeguard this sea lane from security threats,” Song said.
Such type of joint naval patrols would likely to become routine, Song said. it was the third and the largest edition of the Sea Guardian exercise.
The first edition was held in 2020 in the northern waters of the Arabian Sea, while the second edition was held in 2022 in the waters off Shanghai.
According to official releases and media reports from both sides, the PLA Navy sent a Type 052D destroyer, two Type 054A frigates, a replenishment ship, a conventional submarine and a submarine support ship, while the Pakistan Navy sent at least two Type 054A/P frigates, two F-22P frigates and an anti-submarine patrol aircraft, plus special forces from both sides.
Observers noted that the Pakistan Navy’s main combat vessels were developed by China, and the interoperability between the two countries’ navies was at a high level.