Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani finished his trip to Beijing today, and he’s getting quite the parting gift: 50 brand new JF-17 Thunder fighter jets. Pakistan and China have developed and built the JF-17 jointly, in a program dating back to 1999, but this batch will sport advanced avionics, the New York Times reports, and China will be picking up the tab—which according to the AP will amount to $20 million to $25 million per jet. In terms of how the move will beef up Pakistan's military capacity, the Times calls the deal's value "more symbolic than decisive."
The journey and the deal serve to highlight what Pakistan calls its “all-weather friendship” with China—in tacit contrast to its less solid alliance with the US. While the US gives Pakistan more aid than any other country, China is its largest trading partner and arms supplier, and shares Pakistan’s distrust of India. “I think Gilani hopes that by cozying up to Beijing, Islamabad can hedge its bets both vis-a-vis Washington … and vis-a-vis New Delhi,” a former Australian defense chief says. (Read more Pakistan stories.)