China on Monday defended the ongoing joint exercises of its air force with that of Pakistan, saying the drills were not directed against any third country and India should view them objectively. The Air Forces of China and Pakistan are holding their annual exercises "Shaheen (Eagle)-IX" since the second week of December in Pakistan's southern Sindh province. The exercises followed the recent visit of China's Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe to Pakistan during which the all-weather allies signed a new memorandum of understanding, details of which were not disclosed.
Asked whether the exercises between two air forces were aimed at conveying a message to New Delhi, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here that drills were part of "routine arrangement". "As all-weather Strategic Cooperation Partners, China and Pakistan have friendly exchanges and cooperation in many areas including politics, economy, military, and security, he said.
"We are committed to jointly upholding regional peace and stability. The relevant cooperation is a routine arrangement between the two militaries," he said. "It is not targeting any third party. We hope that (the) relevant Party can view this in an objective manner," Wang said, without directly naming India.
The joint air force exercises, which will conclude in late December, is a project within the 2020 cooperation plan of the two militaries, the Chinese military said earlier. The drills will promote the development of China-Pakistan "mil-to-mil" relationships, deepen practical cooperation between the two air forces, and improve the actual-combat training level of the two sides, it said.
Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday visited an airbase to witness the joint drills and emphasised combat readiness and improved interoperability with China. All weather friends, China and Pakistan share close military ties with Beijing emerging as a major weapons provider to Pakistan in recent years. China also helps Pakistan to jointly produce JF-17 fighter jets which were recently upgraded with the new Block-3 version.
The exercises are being held in the midst of an eight-month-long military standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh.