KARACHI: During a joint exercise, Chinese and Pakistani naval warships have conducted their first joint maritime patrol in the northern Arabian Sea. This move is considered by experts to be part of the two countries’ solid efforts 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 carried out the joint patrol in waters around major maritime routes and port channels in the northern Arabian Sea. This occurred as part of the China-Pakistan Sea Guardian-3 joint exercise when it entered the sea phase.
This marks the first time that the PLA Navy and the Pakistan Navy have conducted a joint maritime patrol, observers pointed out.
The joint patrol is a significant aspect of the Sea Guardian-3 joint exercise, which aims to demonstrate the two countries’ shared responsibilities and resolute commitment in safeguarding the CPEC, as stated in the press release.
During the joint patrol, both sides underwent training involving joint search and rescue operations, formation maneuvering, and VBSS (visit, board, search and seizure), effectively enhancing their capabilities in collectively addressing maritime security threats, according to the PLA Navy.
During another segment of Sea Guardian-3, a task group consisting of six warships, including the PLA Navy’s Type 052D destroyer Zibo, Type 054A frigate Jingzhou, and Type 903 replenishment ship Qiandaohu, along with the Pakistan Navy’s Type 054A/P frigate Shah Jahan, were deployed for the sea phase of the drill in the northern Arabian Sea, as specified by a separate press release from the PLA Navy.
On the first day of the sea phase, they practiced various training operations such as VBSS, aerial photography, air defense, communications, and joint anti-submarine training. Warships from both sides took turns acting as the command ship, the PLA Navy reported.
Commencing at the Karachi Naval Dockyard on Saturday, Sea Guardian-3 includes a port phase from Saturday to Monday and a sea phase from Tuesday to Friday.
Discussing the distinctions 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 involves military presence for swift response to emergencies and the protection of security in a region, while a joint exercise entails training with predetermined goals and targets.
The Arabian Sea is crucial for both China and Pakistan in terms of goods and energy transport, which is emphasized by the CPEC connecting the economic activities of the two countries. Therefore, it is vital for both countries to safeguard this sea lane from security threats, Song highlighted.
Song mentioned that this kind of joint naval patrol is likely to become a regular occurrence.
This is the third and largest edition of the Sea Guardian exercise. The first edition took place 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 sources and media reports from both sides, the PLA Navy dispatched a Type 052D destroyer, two Type 054A frigates, a replenishment ship, a conventional submarine, and a submarine support ship. On the other hand, the Pakistan Navy sent at least two Type 054A/P frigates, two F-22P frigates, an anti-submarine patrol aircraft, and special forces from both sides.
Observers have noted that the Pakistan Navy’s main combat vessels were developed by China, and the interoperability between the two countries’ navies is at a high level.