Pakistan seems to have donned the role of a guinea pig-cum-promotion agent for China's arsenal experiments, as it is all set to buy at least 36 advanced fighter jets from China in a landmark deal for about $1.4 billion (Rs 6,500 crore), reported the Financial Times.
Pakistani officials confirmed the deal and said they might buy "larger numbers" of the J-10 fighter aircraft in the near future.
As part of the initial agreement, China will supply two squadrons of the fighter jets.
"This agreement should not simply be seen in the narrow context of Pakistan's relations with China," said Abdul Qayyum, a retired Pakistani general told the paper.
"There is a wider dimension. By sharing its advanced technology with Pakistan, China is also saying to the world that its defence capability is growing rapidly."
Though China has earlier supplied Pakistan with fighter jets, this is the first time that it is supplying advanced jets to Pakistan in such large numbers.
According to defence experts, it is not just a deal, but also Pakistan's stamp of approval on China's advancing military power and will help in increasing China's sales of the fighter jet.
"Countries like Iran and possibly some of the Middle Eastern countries would be keen to deal with China if they can find technology which is comparable to the west," said a western official in Islamabad [ Images ] told the paper.
"Pakistan will work as the laboratory to try out Chinese aircraft. If they work well with the Pakistani air force, others will follow," he added.
Over the years, Pakistan has spent billions buying fighter jets from leading military powers.
In the 1970s, it bought Mirage fighter jets from France [ Images ], and in the 80s, it turned to the US for F-16s. The Pakistani air force has at least 45 F-16s, and will receive 18 more of the upgraded version of F-16 and 12 of the older version from the US soon to be used in the war against the Taliban [ Images ].
China and Pakistan have also jointly built an advanced fighter jet, JF-17, commonly known as 'Thunder'. Pakistan also plans to buy at least 250 of the Thunder jets over the next few years.
While China has already come up with its indigenous aircraft, Pakistan will reportedly release its version of 'Thunder' in a few weeks.