Pakistan China air exercises, conducted every year since 2011, were concluded successfully in December. This year, they were called the “Shaheen-IX”. Unlike China, where the air force is part of the army and is called PLAAF, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is a separate and autonomous service.
During the Shaheen-VII, 2019, India attacked Balakot. In response to India’s attack, PAF brought down two Indian fighter jets on 27 February and arrested an Indian pilot Abhinandan. This was a shock for Indian military power. To clean its image from that debacle, India expedited the process of buying 36 Rafael jets from France. Rafale jets were supposed to be delivered by 2023 but the Balakot debacle forced India to expedite the delivery process. India was of the view that Rafael was better than Pakistan’s JF-17, F-16 and Mirage fighter jets.
When the first Rafael fighter landed in Ambala, Indian media went gaga as if it got the whole air force of France. Later, Rafael jets were taken to Ladakh in October 2019. It was implied that China remained the main adversary of India. However, the “Shaheen IX” air exercise between PAF and PLAAF was a message to India: “Do not be cocky, it would not be easy to fight the joint forces of China and Pakistan”. The main purpose of the “Shaheen-IX” was to warn India that after acquiring Rafael, it should not be too cocky.
One Chinese commentator has compared J-10C’s technical capability, its size, aerodynamic and aviation quality, weapon systems and combat capability with France’s Rafael and said it is comparable to Rafael. He has also said that J-11B is much better than India SU-30 fighter plans. The PAF and PLAAF commanders kept two things in mind during the Shaheen-IX exercises: any air warfare would involve high-speed operations and cover a vast area. PLAAF and PAF have learnt a lot from their joint air exercises.
Spokesperson of Chinese defence ministry senior Colonel Tan Kefei said that China and Pakistan were ready to touch new heights pertaining to security cooperation with each other. Cooperation in economic and security sectors between Pakistan and China is the demand of the time, as both countries are facing similar kinds of challenges. In fact, they have a common adversary. Unable to feed its hungry people, our adversary conspires to stop developmental projects of Pakistan and China through the use of terrorism. The statement came up in the backdrop of the killing of 11 mining labourers in Balochistan. Relations between China and Pakistan are strong. It only requires further institutionalization as indicated by the Chinese defence ministry spokesperson.