Once upon a time, there lived two best friends…
Javed Chaudhry, Urdu columnist on The Express, had written an interesting article the Joint Fighter (JF-17) multi-role combat aircraft, purported to be the result of a Sino-Pakistan defense project. The Filter Coffee has pointed out previously, how this “all-weather” friendship between China and Pakistan is a elaborate farce that has fooled no one. Pakistan has entered into deals with China only when other avenues were closed, and China, fully cognizant of Pakistan’s plight, has maximized its own gains to Pakistan’s detriment. An old article by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa reinforces this point.
Air Marshall Shahid Latif is a decorated officer of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). In January 1983, he became one of the first in the PAF to receive training on flying F-16s in the U.S. He was also responsible for initiating Pakistan’s bid to purchase F-16s from the U.S. In 2000, Air Marshall Latif was put in charge of the JF-17 [Joint Fighter] project, which was initiated in 1994 with the assistance of China. The project was meant to be a joint venture with a Chinese firm, CATIC. China and Pakistan hoped to joint-manufacture the jet to meet their defense needs and supply JF-17s to interested countries.
Pakistan felt compelled to enter into an agreement with China because Pakistan was unable to replace its aging fighter aircraft after being ostracized by the U.S. for “supporting terror groups,” after the Afghanistan war. PAF faced the possibility of becoming a spent force, following the U.S.’s embargo and the obsolescence of its own aircraft. Thus, in 1994, the Benazir Bhutto administration entered into an agreement with China to co-manufacture JF-17 aircraft. However, no progress was made due to international pressure and Pakistan’s own economic situation. The project was restarted in 2000, with Air Marshall Latif at the helm, and within three years, the JF-17 made its first successful test flight.
After JF-17’s success, PAF labeled Air Marshall Latif the “AQ Khan of the JF-17.” The project envisaged Pakistan and China contributing 58% and 42% respectively to manufacture components needed for the aircraft, which was expected to rival the F-16. Air Marshall Latif was expected to rise to the post of Chief of Air Staff after the success of this project; however, due to pressure from an unnamed country, another individual superseded him to the post.
After the new Chief of Air Staff took command, plans of the joint venture to co-manufacture JF-17s were abandoned. Instead, Pakistan entered into an agreement with CATIC to purchase the aircraft [thus altering the nature of the project and the relationship between the two parties]. The original cost of the project was expected to be $1 billion (Pakistan hoped to manufacture 250 JF-17s). As part of this new agreement, Pakistan obtained a loan, again from CATIC, at an interest rate of 7% to purchase these aircraft in 2008. The terms of this loan were excessive, given the world economic crisis and the fact that Pakistan had just entered into another loan agreement with CATIC at a considerable price for an aviation system. As a result, Pakistan was compelled to sign the purchase agreement with CATIC on March 18, 2009, at a final price of $10 billion. [The Express]