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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

China to sell Pak 36 fighter jets in deal worth $1.4 bn

China has agreed to sell Pakistan at least 36 advanced fighter jets in a landmark deal worth as much as $1.4bn, Pakistani and western officials said on Tuesday.

China will supply two squadrons of J-10 fighter planes in a preliminary agreement, which could lead to further sales in future, a Pakistani official said.

The official added that Pakistan might buy “larger numbers” of the planes in the future, but denied reports that Pakistan had agreed to buy 150 jets.

Experts describe the agreement as a “landmark” in Pak-China relations.

“The agreement should not simply be seen in the narrow context of Pakistan’s relations with China,” said Abdul Qayyum, a retired Pakistani general. “There is a wider dimension. By sharing its advanced technology with Pakistan, China is ... also saying to the world that its defence capability is growing rapidly.”

China has supplied Pakistan with fighter jets for more than three decades. Experts said the sales would be evidence of China looking to expand its military power. “Countries like Iran and possibly some of the Middle Eastern countries would be keen to deal with China,” said one western official in Islamabad.