China has agreed to immediately provide 50 JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan, a major outcome of a visit by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to Beijing this week, Pakistani officials said Thursday. China and Pakistan have jointly produced the JF-17 aircraft, but the new planes would be equipped with more sophisticated avionics, the officials said. The latest jet fighters would be paid for by China, they said. The announcement came as Pakistan’s already tense relations with the United States soured further after the killing of Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan on May 2. Last week, Pakistan’s spy chief denounced the United States in a rare briefing before Parliament in which he condemned the American raid for breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Parliament, in turn, called for the government to revisit relations with the United States. Mr. Gilani’s visit to Beijing served as a pointed reminder of Pakistani suggestions that the government might seek to recalibrate relations with the United States, using China to offset what many here view as an overdependence on Washington. The United States has provided Pakistan with some $20 billion in aid, mostly military, for its cooperation in fighting terrorism since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Much of that aid has come in the form of reimbursements for Pakistani counterterrorism operations. Both the aid and the effectiveness of Pakistan’s cooperation have been called into question by the discovery that Bin Laden had lived for years in a large compound adjacent to a top military academy in the city of Abbottabad, a two-hour drive from the capital, Islamabad. While the Obama administration would still like Pakistan’s cooperation to wind down the war in Afghanistan and to root out terrorist groups, some American lawmakers are now calling for aid to Pakistan to be cut or suspended.