A grand annual military parade marking Pakistan’s Republic Day has for the first time involved Chinese troops, underscoring Beijing’s increasingly strong partnership with Islamabad.
The Pakistan military displayed its conventional and nuclear-capable weapons at Thursday’s parade in the capital, where security was extremely tight. Authorities blocked cellular phone networks to deter militants, who have often used mobile phone signals to trigger bombs.
Pakistan Day commemorates March 23, 1940, when a resolution was passed to demand the establishment of a separate homeland to protect Muslims in the then British colony of India.
Addressing the nationally televised event, President Mamnoon Hussain thanked China for sending a 90-member contingent of the People’s Liberation Army to the parade, saying the Chinese army has never participated in such an event in any other country.
In addition to deep defense ties, Beijing is investing more than $50 billion to help build infrastructure projects in Pakistan with an aim to link China to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
Hussain said the cooperation under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor underscored strong economic partnership between the two countries and opened doors of development not only for Pakistan, but for the whole region.
Thursday’s parade showcased the Nasr missile, with a 60 kilometer range. It is capable of carrying Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons.
Also featured was the nuclear-capable ballistic Shaheen-III missile with a range of up to 2,750 kilometers that experts say can hit anywhere in rival India.
President Hussain, however, reiterated that Pakistan’s nuclear capacities are meant to ensure regional peace and stability. He said Islamabad is ready for talks with New Delhi on all issues, including Kashmir, but accused India of violating a cease-fire in the divided Himalayan region.
“India’s irresponsible attitude and consistent violations of Line of Control and Working Boundary have jeopardized peace of the region,” Hussain alleged, referring to the de facto Kashmir frontier.
A message to Hussain from Indian President Pranab Mukherjee congratulated Pakistan on its Republic Day, and said India would build “ties with Pakistan in an environment free from terror and violence.”
Relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, who have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, have lately nosedived over Pakistan’s alleged support for anti-India militants.
A contingent of Saudi special forces and Turkish military band also participated in the Pakistan Day parade where fighter planes and sky-diving Pakistani troops demonstrated their skills.