Pakistan Russia $9 billion mega defence deal?

Pakistan Russia $9 billion mega defence deal?

ISLAMABAD - There has been an uptick in speculation in recent weeks that Moscow and Islamabad are in dialogue over an arms deal that would see Pakistan procure significant amounts of Russian hardware, including surface-to-air missile systems and tanks.

Without either side saying much about the matter publicly, it is difficult to determine the pace of negotiations or the prospect of a deal being signed. Given the mounting speculation, however, it is worthwhile to review the hurdles that an agreement would face, which might inform whether the rumors will actually manifest in a deal.

In June 2014, Russia lifted its arms embargo on Pakistan. The embargo had mostly precluded the arms trade between the two (with some exceptions). Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov, in announcing the move, noted at the time link, “Such a decision has been taken. We are holding talks on supplying the helicopters.” The two sides signed a defense cooperation pact link in November 2014 and, subsequently, a military-technical cooperation agreement link. The Russian and Pakistani militaries held their first joint exercise link in September 2016 and, under an August 2018 agreement link, Russia may provide military training for Pakistani personnel.

Regarding arms trade, Pakistan purchased four Mi-35M attack helicopters, which arrived in the country last year and were commissioned into service link with the Army in December. In its February 2019 edition, *AirForces Monthly *reported that a follow-on deal for five had been signed. Pakistan may ultimately be interested in close to two-dozen of the helicopters.

There may be further sales down the road. In a recent analysis, the Russian think tank Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) indicated that, given Pakistani military requirements and assuming Islamabad turned to Moscow to fill them, the two could sign a $9 billion deal link- .

This would dramatically dwarf the Mi-35M deal. Indian media, citing sources in the Indian Ministry of Defence, reported that a range of Russian equipment could be sold, such as Pantsir surface-to-air missiles and T-90 main battle tanks.

Before getting carried away with the recent reports, however, these details require qualifiers. It is certainly likely that Russia and Pakistan have held dialogue on a range of military equipment. In September 2016, Pakistani Maj. Gen. Naveed Ahmed, who heads the Directorate General of Defence Purchase, told media at Russia’s ARMY-2016 exhibition that his country’s military has shown “keen interest” link in Russian systems.

He added, “We are looking for the air platform, for any sorts of helicopters; for the Army we are looking for tanks, we are looking for anti-tanks weapon system[s] and, more importantly, we are looking for the air defense system.”

The Pakistani military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, told Russian media in March of this year that dialogue continued link, naming air defense systems, aircraft, and anti-tank missiles as a focus for the discussions.

Pakistan is known to be evaluating tanks in particular, and anti-tank systems would help counter new tanks entering service with India. Air defense systems remain a key priority link, particularly after the February 2019 standoff with India, which featured both sides delivering air strikes link to the other’s territory, the first instance of this dimension of warfare between the two since 1971. But whether Pakistan turns to Russia for these requirements hinges on a number of factors.