China, Pakistan set for submarine deal by end of year, say officials - IHS Jane's 360 Pakistan could sign a deal to buy up to six submarines from China before the end of 2014, senior Pakistani government officials have told IHS Jane's . A Pakistani government minister revealed in March 2011 that China had offered to sell up to six submarines to Pakistan although he did not specify details of the boats on offer. Western officials in Islamabad suggest that China's subsequent international marketing of the 'S20' or Yuan-class diesel-electric submarine (SSK) suggests it could be a potential option for Pakistan. A senior Pakistani government official told IHS Jane's that "the technical details are almost done. The present discussions are mainly about the financing details". A second Pakistani government official confirmed that "the contract is in an advanced stage and discussions will not linger on for too long. Realistically, we should have a deal by end 2014". The submarine contract would further cement China's rapidly growing role as the main supplier of military hardware to Pakistan's armed forces and fill an important gap in Pakistan Navy (PN) capabilities. The PN is known to operate five French submarines: three Agosta 90B (Khalid-class) submarines purchased in the 1990s and two ageing Agosta 70 (Hashmat-class) boats dating from the late 1970s. In 2009, the PN sought to purchase three German-built Type 214 submarines, but the plan was put on hold due to costs that at the time were reported to be in excess of USD2 billion. Recent Sino-Pakistan contracts of potential interest to Islamabad's strategic interests include China's agreement to provide two large civil nuclear reactors to be based close to Karachi. According to Pakistani officials China's Eximbank agreed to extend a USD6.5 billion loan for the two reactors. Additionally, the Sino-Pakistani-built JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft is reportedly the subject of talks between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia: a potential deal that Western officials said would not be discussed without Beijing's explicit consent. COMMENT A Sino-Pakistan submarine contract will be closely watched by Western officials for any signs that may suggest progression towards nuclear-powered boats. Pakistan's defence planners consider the absence of such a platform - which they would eventually want to see armed with submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missiles - as major disadvantage in a potential conflict with India. However, Western officials believe China will hesitate to extend such advanced technology to Pakistan given the potential for a harsh reaction from the United States and its allies.