Pakistan has received four advanced attack helicopters from Russia in what seems to be a deal that paves the way for broader military ties between the two countries, press TV has reported.
Moscow has delivered the Mil Mi-35M gunships under a $153 million deal finalized at this year’s International Military-Technical Forum (Army 2017) in Russia, according to Pakistan’s Defense Export Promotion Organization (DEPO).
The two sides first discussed the purchase in August 2015 and later on agreed on the contract in June 2016, when Pakistan’s then-Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif visited Moscow.
DEPO’s Brigadier General Waheed Mumtaz told reporters that Islamabad was ready to buy more military equipment from Russia depending on the Pakistani military’s experience with the helicopters.
The deal came three years after Russia officially lifted an arms embargo against Pakistan, which had been in place since the Soviet-Afghan War.
The rocky US-Pakistan relationship over the past years has seen Washington time and again threatening to cut Islamabad’s military aid over its support for some terror groups, pushing the traditional US ally in the region towards Moscow.
Pakistan’s growing interest in Russian technology became more apparent earlier this year, when reports pointed to Islamabad’s willingness to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems, among other items.
“Russia has good tanks, helicopters, electronic equipment, air defense systems that Pakistan may consider. The S-400 is a big ticket number and it will all depend on our budget,” an unnamed Pakistani military official told Russian state media in February.
India’s burgeoning military cooperation with the US has also played a role in Pakistan’s tilt towards Russia.
As Pakistan’s arch-rival, India has made a $2 billion deal with the US to buy 22 unarmed drones. Washington has also agreed to sell C130J Super Hercules and the C-17 Globemasters transport planes as well as the Boeing P-8 Poseidon spy aircraft to New Delhi.
The extensive deals have also reduced Russia’s share of the market in India, further cementing Pakistan’s position as a viable military partner.
The cooperation is expected to speed up under US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists.