Pakistan eyes Russian weapons… and here’s what Moscow has in store
Pakistani PM Imran Khan has said his country is looking for Russian arms, and there’s a lot that Moscow can offer, be it main battle tanks and fighter jets, or helicopters and air defense systems, a military expert told RT. For at least several decades, Pakistan’s military has relied on Western and Chinese vendors when upgrading or expanding their arsenals. Now, times are about to change as the South Asian country is looking at Russian-made weapons systems and is keen on building military-to-military ties with Moscow.
“Previously, Pakistan was tied to the US, and, as we all know, India was tied to the Soviet Union,” Khan said in an interview with Sputnik, adding that the world is past the Cold War-era.
We hope that our tension with India decreases, so we do not have to buy arms because we want to spend money on human development. But, yes, we are looking for arms from Russia, and I know our military is already in touch with the Russian military.
Almost all weapons systems – land or sea-based – could be used by Pakistani armed forces, but the likeliest candidates are tanks, helicopters and air defense systems, explains military expert and retired colonel Mikhail Khodarenok.
The Pakistani Army may be inclined to procure the T-90, a time-proven main battle tank (MBT) that’s been in use in neighboring India since the 2000s, Khodarenok suggested. Islamabad recently declined Ukrainian or Chinese offers, but its tank fleet is still in need of upgrade.
Russian-made helicopters may be of interest too, the expert said. The Pakistani Air Force has ordered four Mi-35Ms – the latest version of the Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter – and is already flying six Mi-171s.
Aircraft aside, more and more countries, including Islamabad’s rival India, are looking at the S-400 air defense system, and Pakistan is no exception. However, procuring the sophisticated weapon could be unaffordable for the Pakistanis, Khodarenok said. Instead, they may opt for shorter-range systems like Buk, Thor or Pantsir-S2.
There’s plenty of reasons why Russia may want to offer its state-of-the-art armaments to Pakistan, he stated. Pakistan is an emerging arms trade market, and its demand for Russian weapons may amount to a whopping $8-9 billion in coming years.
Russian weapons have excellent reputation and are respected in Pakistan since the war in Afghanistan.
Apart from money, politics also plays a role when discussing prospective arms deals. Offering cutting-edge weapons to Pakistan may be tricky as Russia has long enjoyed close defense ties with India, where the western neighbor is considered a major enemy.But political considerations shouldn’t stop Moscow from engaging with Islamabad, Khodarenok warned. Russia has always been loyal to its Indian customers, but that attitude did not necessarily pay off in recent years, the expert believes. India is increasingly drifting towards the US and Europe, and Russia “should abandon stereotypes and build closer ties with Pakistan.”