PRC Arms Transfers to South Asia: Seeking Strategic Balance
The Sino- Pakistan relationship has endured over the years in spite of differences in political ideologies, alliance networks, and a number of other bilateral difficulties. Of paramount importance to the success of this relationship in the past was the mutually perceived threat in Pakistan and in China of Soviet and Indian dominance in and around South Asia. As a result, the linchpin of Sino-Pakistan relations was strategic and military cooperation, with China acting as the dominant and often sole supplier of weaponry to Pakistan from the mid-1960s into the 1990s. Indeed, because of its strategic importance to Beijing, Pakistan became one of China's closest allies, though no formal agreement to this effect has ever been signed between the two countries. However, an "enduring entente" of complex and tightly knit proportions has evolved, a relationship which has survived the political and strategic changes within and around it and which continues to gather strength and stability. 1 In large measure, the success and continuing viability of Sino-Pakistani ties is traceable to China's massive military support of Pakistan, a reflection of the enormous strategic importance which China sees in its South Asian ally.
The following pages will spell out both the extent and motivations of PRC weapons transfers to its close ally, Pakistan, from their beginnings in the 1960s to the 1990s. The closing pages in this chapter will also briefly address Chinese arms transfers to three other countries in the region: Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Of all of China's arms clients since 1970, Pakistan remains the most steadfast, and in the period 1970 to 1990