China's vice-president, Zheng Dejiang, met with civil and military leaders in Pakistan in a visit surrounded by reports of a major new defence deal under discussion that would see Pakistan buying at least three Chinese submarines.
A senior Pakistani government official said the Pakistan Navy began discussions with "the Chinese authorities last month for an eventual submarine deal" for up to three or four boats, but declined to specify the types or terms under discussion.
China has a long history of helping Pakistan overcome shortages of key military hardware, notably the hardware it was denied by the Western world following sanctions imposed from 1990 in response to Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.
The Pakistani government official said that it was vital for the navy to acquire more submarines to offset "the pressure we will definitely come under" due to the rapid expansion of India's naval capability. "Our Chinese brothers have always come to our help and we are asking them for assistance once again," he said.
Although neither China nor Pakistan have ever publicly revealed the terms of their past financial arrangements, defence analysts say that China continues to offer long-term loans to Pakistan on concessional terms, allowing the country to continue with its military hardware purchases.