News Analysis |
Financial Times, in its nearly 2000 worded thorough report, compared the statistics showing Pakistan’s weapon import since 2010. From $1 billion of net revenue which the United States received back in 2010, the numbers have dropped down to a mere $21 million dollars coming from Pakistan for procuring US military hardware.
The plummeting can be traced backed to the last few months of Obama administration when United States blocked the sale of advanced F-16 fighters to Pakistan. Since May 2nd, 2011, when Osama Bin Laden was hunted down by US Navy Seals in Abbottabad coupled with US obsession with Haqqani network and alleged safe havens in Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, the relations and trust have continued to deteriorate. For a long time, US has employed sale of weapons as a requisite tool to drive its foreign policy in the intended direction to achieved desired objectives globally.
Pakistan’s weapon import has not only seen a dip vis a vis US but military imports from China have also suffered, from $745 million to $514 million dollars. As evident from figures, United States has experienced a significant depression of revenues coming from Pakistan as compared to China.
Since 1965 Indo-Pak war, when the United States placed a weapon embargo on Pakistan, China has continuously proved itself to be a reliable source for fulfilling the arms needs of its neighbor.
When President Donald Trump succeeded President Obama as the 45th president of United States, the stance against Pakistan became even sterner. Not only he sidelined Pakistan, the key US ally for its ventures in Afghanistan since the 1980s, in its new South Asia policy but also suspended the $2 billion worth military aid. Factors like Salala incident and US refusal to allow the sale of F-16s to Pakistan due to intensive Indian lobbying resulted in Pakistan’s exploration of new avenues and eventually focusing on China as a major weapon supplier.
It is not yet possible for Pakistan to shift the entire posture of defense imports away from the US as the elite fighting machine of Pakistan Air Force, F-16, is the US made the product.
The dependence for their upgrading and components will persist until Pakistan manages to find a better solution to pivot its Air Force around. But, apart from F-16s, Pakistan has been successful in collaborating with China in the cooperation and coproduction of JF-17 fighters, which are gradually becoming the most successful defense export of the country.
When US declined to provide subsidized F-16 aircraft in October 2016, China signed a deal with Pakistan to provide 8 attack submarines. A deal worth $8 billion dollars made it the biggest single arms export deal China signed in the history.
Air defense systems, rocket launchers and latest in the list of Chinese hardware employed by Pakistan armed forces are VT-4 tanks, which are currently being tested in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s significantly reduced weapon imports correspond to the country’s developing, indigenous defense production industry. Initially, Pakistan just had the assembly line where JF-17 aircraft were assembled in Aeronautical Complex Kamra but recently Pakistani engineers have been the part of Research and Development process of Block B variants of jets as well.
Owing to the nature and dynamic trends of modern warfare, Pakistan has also put ample financial and human resources in R&D and production of UAVs, SHAHPAR being the first successful venture in this regard. In fact, Indian vice Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Sarath Chand went on to state that Pakistan is ahead of India as far as the indigenous defense production is concerned.
Relations with Russia are in the embryonic stage right now, but if they continue to move with the same vigor and in the same direction they are at the moment, Russia can be another viable option for Pakistan to purchase advanced weapons. Due to its sophisticated military aerospace engineering, Russian jets and missile defense systems are considered second to none.
It can help Pakistan to shift its reliance away from the United States of America for its specific defense needs. In August 2017, Pakistan purchased 4 Mi-25M advanced attack helicopters from Russia, setting a milestone for cooperation in the security as well as a diplomatic domain for both the countries.