China using Pakistan to cover its military supply to Myanmar

Naypyidaw, Myanmar: The Myanmar military is planning to purchase 60 and 81 mm mortars, M-79 grenade launchers and heavy machine guns from Pakistan. India’s eastern neighbour is also eyeing to purchase air to surface missiles from Pakistan.

In 2018, Myanmar`s armed forces bought 16 JF-17 Thunder multi-role aircraft from Pakistan for USD 560 million. The aircraft is co-developed by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and the Chinese Chengdu Aerospace Corporation.

According to the sources, the deal was facilitated by Dr Naing Htut Aung, a major arms supplier representing the International Gateways Group of Companies which has strong ties with the military including current Army Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Subsequently, in September last year, the un-announced high-level Pakistan Defence Ministry’s 10-member delegation led by a Brigadier met Myanmar Defence Minister and reportedly discussed the sale of upgraded JF-17 (Block III) aircraft and Air to Surface missiles.

Talks were also held on advanced ordinance technology, aircraft repair and naval munitions.

In the backdrop of the Pakistan-China alliance, the perception of China using Pakistan to conduct maintenance of Chinese origin equipment and also facilitating Pakistan’s Defence Industry to become an avenue for Chinese defence sales is gaining traction.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), its report indicated that during 2019-20 the total share of Chinese arms exports declined from 5.5 to 5.2 per cent.

However, there is a strong view that Chinese exports are being re-routed or underreported.

A specific example is when a Chinese ship bound for Pakistan was detained in 2020 by Indian authorities for carrying an autoclave, a dual-use technology, as an “industrial dryer”.

While Beijing has kept an active dialogue with the Myanmar junta, it has also indicated not being involved in the coup of Feb. 21 to bolster its international image.

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