Islamabad has acquired the first batch of Chinese-made vehicle-mounted howitzers to counter the Indian K-9 Vajra howitzers, ensuring that Pakistan remains embroiled in a standoff with India. Beijing is also supplying Rawalpindi with NORINCO AR-1 300 mm multi-barrel rocket launchers as a counter to Indian rocket launchers. The overall contract value is estimated to be around USD 512 million.
The provision of conventional weapon systems, fighter aircraft, destroyers, and even the willingness to provide the DF-17 hypersonic missile to counter India’s most recent acquisition, the S-400 air defense system, are all part of Beijing’s long-term strategy to keep Rawalpindi GHQ in a state of perpetual confrontation with India.
This tactic has already paid off for the Chinese dictatorship
As it pushes India to maintain vigilance on its western border with a power that punches far above its weight in international fora, as well as in military and nuclear parity. Beijing’s participation in building Pakistan into nuclear power, as well as the covert provision of delivery systems since the 1990s, is well known.
According to reports, Pakistan in 2019 signed a contract with Chinese arms major NORINCO to supply 236 SH-15 155 mm vehicle-mounted howitzers apart from AR-1 heavy rocket launchers. In addition to artillery, the contract also includes supply and technology transfer for various ammunition including extended-range artillery shells and guided artillery shells with a range of 53 kilometers. Clearly, this supply is to boost the firepower of the Pakistan army all along the western border, especially to heat up the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir in case the existing ceasefire breaks down or to send a message on Kashmir.
The reported supply of DF-17 mobile, solid-fueled medium-range ballistic missile by China to Pakistan is to pump up Rawalpindi’s ballistic missile system as the hypersonic missile is difficult to track by most existing radars and equally difficult to engage by existing surface to air missile systems including S-400 system. Mounted on a hypersonic glide vehicle, the DF-17 is said to have a combination of maneuverability and high speed that poses significant challenges to conventional missile defense. China has tested the DF-17 missile at least nine times since 2014 and is said to have a 1950 km range with a speed of at least five times that of sound or Mach 5.
While India also tested its scramjet-powered Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Cruise Vehicle (HSTDV) on September 7, 2020, for the launch of hypersonic missiles, the Chinese supply will clearly force Defence Research and Development Organization to speed up the indigenous project.