Step Aside US: Pakistan's New "Best Friend" China, To Provide Karachi With 50 New JF-17 Fighter Jets On Expedited Basis

There was a time when a young Mujahideen commander named Osama bin Laden was a core ally of the US in the fight against Soviet communism and central planning. Well, that particular affair did not end too well for either Osama, nor for the USSR (although one may argue that "communism and central planning" are experiencing a second renaissance courtesy of capitalist central banking). Along the same lines, Pakistan which as recently as 3 weeks ago was considered a core US ally, has very promptly fallen out of favor following the death of that other abovementioned former ally. Yet Pakistan is not wasting time. Two days after Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani took a direct stab at deteriorating US-Paki relations by saying that China is now his country's "best friend",  China has retorted in kind by announcing it will provide another 50 JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan on an "expedited" basis. The WSJ reports that "the agreement to accelerate supply of the jointly developed jets, the first 50 of which are being assembled in Pakistan, came as Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani held talks in Beijing during a visit that he has used to portray China as an alternative source of military and civilian aid. "We're getting the 50 jets, on top of the ones we already have. Something has been agreed in Beijing, so they'll be expedited" he said." In other words: step aside US, here comes China. As for those billions in USD aid which somehow never ended up being used to buy US Treasurys (Pakistan is nowhere in the listing of US Treasury holders) , it is now clear into whose pocket they are going (at $15 million a pop, those are big pockets). Lastly, this is more than just posturing by China: the country is clearly indicating its latest and greatest sphere of influence. As a reminder, "It was reported in 2008 that Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe had placed orders for the aircraft and nine other countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Algeria were showing interest."

More from the WSJ:

China is Pakistan's biggest arms supplier and its third-biggest trading partner.

The JF-17 is a potent symbol of the two countries' friendship, and a key part of Pakistan's plans to upgrade its aging fleet of American-supplied F-16s and French-made Mirages and to try to match the air power of neighboring India—its arch rival.

The U.S. has repeatedly delayed delivery of F-16s to Pakistan, and has insisted that they not be used against India, with which Washington is now cultivating a strategic partnership to counterbalance Beijing's clout in Asia.

China and Pakistan began developing the relatively cheap multipurpose fighter in 1999 and Pakistan, which has said it wants 250 of them altogether, inducted its first squadron of JF-17s last year, and a second earlier this year.

The air-force spokesman said he did not know whether the second batch of 50 jets would be assembled in Pakistan or delivered whole from China.

He also declined to discuss whether they would be the basic so-calledBlock I models, like the first batch, or an upgraded Block II version, which military aviation experts say could include radar-evading stealth technology—potentially giving Pakistan that capability for the first time.

Questions also remain over the new jets' engines. The first batch were all fitted with Russian ones, but Russian officials have expressed reservations about supplying more of those engines as Pakistan and China have been marketing the JF-17 in many of Russia's traditional markets.

Meanwhile back in the US, the politicos are stunned that after being shunned by the US, Pakistan dares to allign itself with America's natural opposite.

Pakistan's efforts to showcase its close ties with China are causing consternation in the U.S.

During a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, Republican Senator Jim Risch of Idaho expressed frustration at Mr. Gilani's statement that China was Pakistan's "best friend" despite billions of dollars of U.S. aid over the last decade.

"It just—it just doesn't make sense...Because, frankly, I'm—I'm getting tired of it, and I think Americans are getting tired of it as far as shoveling money in there [to] people who just flat don't like us," he said, according to a transcript.

At a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, Congressman Michael McCaul (R) of Texas raised particular concern about whether U.S. military aid had been diverted into the JF-17 program.

Yes. It has.