Beijing: Pakistan`s Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar has said China has agreed to Islamabad`s request to operate the underused Gwador Port on the expiry of Port of Singaporean Authority`s (PSA) term of agreement.
The PSA is to operate the port for 40 years. This contract was earlier challenged in courts and a review was ordered by the Chief of Navy Staff, Admiral Noman Bashir.
"We are grateful to the Chinese Government for constructing the Gwadar Port. However, we will be more grateful to the Chinese Government if a naval base is being constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan," the Wall Street Journal quoted Mukhtar, as saying.
Mukhtar`s statement indicated that Pakistan is projecting China as a powerful alternative ally should the United States reduce military assistance to Islamabad.
China and Pakistan are in the talks to build an oil pipeline from Gwadar to northwestern China, as also two railway lines connecting Gwadar to China.
Mukhtar said Pakistan had also asked for an unspecified number of 4,400-ton frigates on a "credit basis" from China, and requested Beijing to train Pakistani naval personnel on submarines. China has also agreed to expedite the delivery of 50 jointly developed JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan, possibly within the next six months.
Pakistani officials have said Gwadar would emerge as a trade hub for Central Asia and a transit point for Chinese oil imports.
Meanwhile, India`s Defence Minister AK Antony has expressed concern over the growing Sino-Pakistan military ties, and said the Indian response would be to build up its own military arsenal.
One analyst said China`s strategy to expand its influence in Pakistan is a part of its effort to contain India in the long-run.
"China is trying to undercut the US` numerous interests in Pakistan. Gwadar was the linchpin of [the] `string of pearls` strategy and the latest news adds to that. India faces a unique challenge that no other country does. Its two nuclear-armed neighbours are closely aligned and are stepping up joint military programs. India will have to step up its deterrent capabilities," said Strategic Studies Professor at the Centre for Policy Research, Brahma Chellaney.