Pakistan in talks with Russia for procurement of sophisticated arms, says defence minister

PHOTO COURTESY: SPUTNIK

Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan has said that Pakistan is in direct talks with the Russian Federation for the procurement of sophisticated military hardware, including air defence systems, fighter jets and battle tanks, reported Sputnik.

The minister confirmed that Islamabad was interested in buying weapons from Moscow in an interview to the Russian news agency on Thursday, in which he also talked about increased cooperation with Kremlin which mirrors Pakistan’s wider geo-strategic concerns.

“Air defence system is a different kind of weapon we are interested. We are very much interested in a very wide range of the Russian weapons technology. We are in negotiations [on air defence systems] and once we conclude negotiations, we will be able to announce them,” Khan told the Russian publication.

The defence minister also outlined that Islamabad was interested in acquiring T-90 tanks from Moscow as part of a long-term deal rather than committing itself to a single purchase.

“We are interested in tanks T-90 and it is not going to be a one-time purchase but it is going to be a long-term commitment,” Khan stated.

He added that negotiations for the purchase of Russian Su-35 fighter jets are in their early stages, and an agreement in this regard may be reached “in the next few years”, according to the Russian website.

Regional cooperation

Talking about security issues in South and Central Asia, the defence minister noted that both Pakistan and Russia were interested in a stable and democratic Afghanistan.

“We respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty. Stability in Afghanistan is important for Pakistan to be able to develop its own prosperous future, to access to the Russian market, for example, by land route. Democratic and stable Afghanistan is in the deep the interest of both Russia and Pakistan,” the minister stated.

He also lauded recent efforts by the Kremlin, which aim to bring stability to Afghanistan, highlighting the need for other global powers to devise a similar plan to defeat terrorism all over the world.

“We are supporting the Russian regional approach to Afghanistan and we hope that not only Russia but also China, Iran and of course the United States can sit together at the table and devise a way in which we can achieve internal peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan,” Khan was quoted as saying by Sputnik.

The defence minister added that a new approach to solve the issues in Afghanistan by senior government leaders in Kabul was a positive step, which showed that the Afghan president was interested in ending the conflict, rather than winning the prolonged war.

“One positive step that has happened recently is a genuine approach by President Ghani when he had said that he no longer wants to win the war, but to end the conflict,” the minister remarked.

“To win the war was the American approach but now the Afghan approach is closer to Pakistan’s position on the matter. Pakistan’s highest priority regarding Afghanistan is to have a peaceful, democratic, and stable neighbor,” Khan underlined.

There has been a dramatic escalation in violence all over Afghanistan ever since US President Donald Trump took office in early 2017 and announced a new aggressive strategy for the region, putting Pakistan in the spotlight. Moscow has hosted a number of peace conferences on the issue in the past few months.

Bilateral relationship

Reiterating the expansion of bilateral ties between the two countries, Khan told the Russian news agency that Islamabad was looking forward to enhancing defence cooperation with Moscow in all areas, which include procurement of weapons, military training exercises and intelligence sharing.

“In the defense field, we signed a historical and unprecedented Pakistan-Russia defense agreement in 2014. As a result, we have been able to conduct joint exercises.”

“Pakistan has purchased Russian Mi-35 helicopters and now we are looking at a much wider range of defense cooperation. In terms of training, Pakistani officers are coming to Russia and Russian officers are going to Pakistani facilities for training,” he informed the reporters.

“We are also now discussing a wider range of military exercises, we are looking at a wider range of military equipment and intelligence sharing,” Khan said on the sidelines of the Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS).

Historically, Pakistan and Russia have been on the opposite side of the conflict in Afghanistan, but the former Cold War foes have now developed a mutual understanding on many international issues, according to Khan.

“Of course we have a history of the Afghan war in which we have been on opposite sides, but now as the second decade of the 21st century ends, we will be able to look at world realities with a different eye.”

“I am delighted to say that Pakistan and Russia are largely in agreement on major international issues like Afghanistan, fighting drug trafficking and the situation in the Middle East. We are now looking at almost all aspects of defense and there is excellent goodwill between our leadership,” he underlined.

The defence minister also expressed that Pakistan was grateful for Russian support in its bid for membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which it joined in 2017.

This article originally appeared on Sputnik News

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