On Saturday, September 23 a Pakistan Army contingent arrived in the Karachay-Cherkessia Republic of Russia to participate in a bilateral defence exercise in a mountain range near the Nizhny Arkhyz area. The arrival announcement was made by the Southern Military District’s Col. Vadim Astafyev.
Designated “Friendship 2017”, the exercise will take place through October 4. The Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports that Friendship 2017 will involve 200 personnel from both Russia and Pakistan. TASS reports that the exercise includes more than 20 mountain warfare drills.
In 2016, Russia and Pakistan conducted their first ever bilateral defence exercise – designated “Friendship 2016” – in Pakistan. Pakistani officials viewed the exercises as a significant indication of fruitfulness in bilateral defence relations between Moscow and Islamabad.
Since 2015, numerous reports had surfaced of Pakistan expressing interest in big-ticket defence systems, among them the Su-35 Flanker-E, Mi-28NE Night Hunter and S-400 Triumf.
Pakistan has also been in negotiation with Russia for raising full maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities for Mil Mi-17/171/35 helicopters as well as Klimov RD-93 turbofan engines.
To date, Pakistan has acquired four Mil Mi-35M assault helicopters, which were delivered in August 2017.
Without detailing specific systems, Pakistani officials have publicly maintained that they would examine Russian defence hardware. In fact, the Russian defence industry promotion entity Rosoboronexport made its debut as an exhibitor at Pakistan’s biennially-held defence exhibition IDEAS in 2016.
Rosonboronexport’s showing at the time had a strong focus on armaments that would be suited for anti-terrorism, counterinsurgency and asymmetrical warfare situations. These included Kalashnikov assault rifles, BMP and BTR-series armoured vehicles and situational awareness and urban monitoring systems.
The Pakistan Army Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa is scheduled to make an official visit to Russia in the first week of October. In a statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said, “Regular high-level exchanges between the two sides in the past few years have set the stage for translating political goodwill into a substantial partnership, in the field of defence in particular.”