Pakistan has been trying to get SU-35 fighter jets from Russia for the past several years, but long-standing relations between Russia and India have been coming in the way of this important defence deal.
In the last three years, whenever the Pakistani army started talks to buy state-of-the-art weapons from Russia, the Pakistani army leadership took a step forward, offering peace to its traditional rival India and conveying the message of dialogue.
Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa for the first time visited Moscow on April 24, 2018, for a “broader military cooperation” talks between the two countries, this was stated both by Russian and Pakistani media.
Contrary to the normal course and conduct, Bajwa recently offered peace talks with the neighbouring country to normalise relations with India. Hence, was the recent Pakistani ceasefire move to clear a Sukhoi Su-35 deal with Russia? This is bizarre and sounds rather baffling.
General Qamar Bajwa rather uncharacteristically also went on to say said that Pakistan had no “war ambitions” against any country in the region.
Earlier, Air Marshal Sohail Aman, former head of Pakistan’s Air Force, went to Moscow in July 2016 specifically to discuss the purchase of required weapons with Russian military officials.
In August 2018, Russian pilots flew ‘Su-35’ jets in Pakistan, indicating that talks were underway between the Pakistani military and the Russian Federation’s military industrial complex to procure an unknown number of these latest fighter jets.
However, Russia at that time denied this statement and said that there are no talks to supply Su-35 aircraft to Pakistan, which could potentially change the balance of military power in the subcontinent in a decisive manner.
The Russian Federation is still having substantial defence deals with its ally India, and political and military ties are still very strong. However, the Russian military industrial complex is looking to Pakistan as a major customer of its military arms sales.
This draws significance, since the locally produced Chinese ‘JF’-17′ jet is inadequate to fulfil PAF’s desired goals to undertake long range missions. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former Pakistan Air Force pilot said, “fighter jets capable of flying wide distances will certainly be needed. ”
Moreover, the sale of military equipment seems to be the need of the hour for the Russian Military Industrial Complex to keep its vast defence industry afloat.
It would be interesting to keep track of this development. India has been pushing its heels to stop Moscow from supplying modern military equipment to its arch-enemy Pakistan. There is a lot of stake involved for especially Russia, since India is its major defence equipment buyer, which in more ways than one keeps the Russian defence industries functioning. Russia would be prudent not to fall for any Pakistani mechanisations or devious stratagem, Moscow should also keep in mind that a cash rich India is more welcome than a virtually bankrupt Pakistan.
Any deviation from the existing status quo between India and Russia would result in India’s rapid response to the situation and would certainly upset the Russian applecart both in the short and long run. India will have to completely recalibrate its relationship with its trusted strategic ally. (Abridged and Translated from the Urdu)