The first of four F-22P frigates ordered by the Pakistani navy from China three years ago will be launched on Monday from a Shanghai shipyard.
The deal marks the navy's first purchase of a major fighting unit from China. In the past, it procured such military hardware from Western countries including Britain and France.
Pakistani Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Afzal Tahir, who will attend the launch ceremony, said the frigates will "form a very important component" of the country's surface fleet.
"They will be deployed for the defense of our maritime interests and to meet our commitments in other aspects of maritime diplomacy," he said yesterday in Beijing, adding the shift from West to East displays the navy's confidence in Chinese industry.
As well as the four frigates, the deal will include the transfer of Chinese naval shipbuilding technology to its neighbor, as the last vessel is expected to be finished at a shipyard in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2013, under an agreement signed in April 2005.
This will be "a catalyst" for cooperation on the construction of vessels, Tahir said.
"It will enhance Pakistan's capabilities in shipbuilding and also the Karachi shipyard's capabilities in managing the construction of a large warship," he said.
The importance of the launch has extended beyond collaboration in shipbuilding. It also acts as testimony to the two Asian nations' strong ties in military cooperation in a broader sense, Tahir said.
Beijing and Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, have always enjoyed sound military cooperation, and last March, the PLA navy took part in its first-ever multilateral naval exercise AMAN-07 in Karachi.
"We were very happy to see the PLA ships operating with other navies of the world in Pakistani waters. And of course their performance was excellent and exemplary," Tahir said, adding Pakistan will host a similar exercise next March.
"We are very hopeful the PLA ships will participate again with the navies of other countries in the interests of stability in the world's maritime domain."
On Thursday, the naval chief met with China's Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie, with whom he spoke of deepening exchanges and cooperation between the defense departments and armed forces of the two countries.
Liang said the defense departments and militaries have maintained long-term exchanges and conducted multilevel cooperation across a wide range of fields.
He also said he hopes the two sides will make joint efforts to promote exchanges and bilateral cooperation to serve the development of the strategic cooperative partnership of the two countries.
(Xinhua News Agency April 5, 2008)