China will build in Karachi four of eight submarines that it is selling to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain told at the inauguration of the Defence Export Promotion Organisation (DEPO) Display Centre in Islamabad that the deal for the acquisition of submarines from China had been finalized and four of them would be built in Karachi.
He said construction of the submarines would simultaneously begin in Pakistan and China.
China, he said, would transfer the technology to Pakistan for submarine construction.
The implementation of the agreement would augment the existing submarine-related capacity. One of the three Agosta 90-B submarines in Navy’s fleet — PNS Hamza commissioned in 2008 — was assembled at the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works. The other two Agosta 90-B submarines — PNS Khalid and PNS Saad — were also indigenously overhauled and retrofitted with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems in 2011.
The three Agosta 90-B submarines of French design form the core of Pakistan’s current submarine fleet that also includes two ageing Agosta-70 submarines.
Hussain did not specify when the construction would begin, but said it would be happening soon. A training center would be set up in Karachi for this purpose.
The minister did not say which type of submarines were being purchased from China. It is, however, speculated that the deal was for Yuan-class Type-041 diesel-electric submarines equipped with AIP systems.
Navy has been pursuing different options for expanding its submarine fleet. Naval officials say that more submarines were needed to address force imbalance with India, which too is increasing and modernising its fleet of submarines.
Pakistan had earlier explored the options of buying submarines from France and Germany, but those deals did not materialise.
Hussain said the government would encourage private-public partnership in defence production to improve the efficiency of the sector.
“We can compete with the best in the world only through a national effort,” he said, adding that the government would extend all possible cooperation to private sector in this regard.
He said this was “the beginning of a new approach”.
The minister said the country needed indigenously developed hardware, which was also technologically innovative.
The minister expected progress on the proposal for a new deep-sea shipyard planned in Gawadar.
“The summary for the new shipyard is with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his approval is expected,” he said.
The shipyard is planned to be constructed by foreign investors on build-operate-transfer basis.
“We have already earmarked land for this purpose,” the minister said.
Hussain hoped that the new shipyard would be able to get substantial maritime-related business from Gulf and Arab countries.