For years, Beijing has been the biggest arms supplier to Islamabad, with defense purchases as a key element of their close ties. Now, Russia is looking to make inroads into the Pakistani weapons market.
Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on April 15 that Pakistan has expressed interest in making a huge purchase of Russian military hardware, citing comments from Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Moscow-based defense think tank Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.
The total invoice could top 9 billion dollar, according to Makienko, who added that Pakistan would likely purchase Russian heavy and medium fighter jets, medium and short-range air defense systems, combat helicopters, tanks, and warships.
Makienko named two types of Russian military hardware that would likely be on Islamabad’s shopping list, the new Russian fighter jet MiG-35 and the heavy transport helicopter Mi-26T2.
Pakistani authorities haven’t confirmed this planned purchase, nor have Pakistani media reported on it thus far.
But Makienko noted that given the low-competitive nature of the military market in Pakistan, which is dominated by China, Russia would likely receive extremely favorable terms on the purchase contracts.
He added that Pakistan has not made requests such as technology transfer or localization of production as terms for any purchases.
China supplied weapons worth over 6.4 billion dollar to Pakistan from 2008 to 2018, making it Pakistan’s biggest supplier, according to data from the independent arms research institute, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, followed by the United States with 2.5 billion dollar, and Italy with 471 million dollar worth of weapons.
Aside from arms sales, there have been other recent signs that Russia and Pakistan plan to enhance their military ties.
On March 24, Russia’s Federal News Agency reported comments by Pakistani Major General Asif Ghafoor about expanding defense cooperation between Moscow and Islamabad. Ghafoor said that there could be more military contracts between the two countries, as Pakistan had just received its orders of Russian attack helicopters Mi-35, a purchase made in 2015.
A week later, on March 30, unnamed senior officials at Pakistan’s foreign ministry told local English-language daily newspaper The Nation that Islamabad and Moscow had agreed to exchange high-level visits more frequently, with defense being the main component of growing ties between the two countries.