In a press conference with journalists on January 15, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia will continue supporting Pakistan’s counterinsurgency (COIN) and counter-terrorism (CT) efforts.
“You rightly noted the intensification of our cooperation in the fight against terrorism,” said Lavrov. “We are interested in the fact that this terrorist threat, which spreads both to the Pakistani territory and to Afghan territory, is poured through your border with Afghanistan, was suppressed. ”
Lavrov added that this support also includes the supply of armaments to Pakistan, such as the four Russian Helicopters Mi-35M assault helicopters on order by (and apparently delivered to) Pakistan.
Lavrov lauded Pakistan’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which he believes will see expansion “for joint work in a variety of areas” and “enrich Russian-Pakistani ties.”
Notes & Comments:
While principally agreeing to sell defence items to Pakistan, the tone of Pakistani-Russian military ties has thus far been that of COIN/CT. The bilateral special forces exercise “Friendship” – which had been held in 2016 and 2017 – is indicative of this notion. In 2016, Rosoboronexport, the Russian state’s arms industry promotional agency, used Pakistan’s marquee defence exhibition, IDEAS, to promote weapons “favoured by Russian special units and law enforcement officers, specialized in antiterrorist operations” such as the BTR-80A, BTR-82A and BMP-3M armoured personnel carriers (APC), Kalashnikov assault rifles (i.e. AK-101, AK-102, AK-103 and AK-104) and simulator systems. Pakistan’s Mi-35M purchase was also cast in this light.
This commercial focus contrasts with the anticipation – driven by statements from Pakistani officials along with reports by Russian and Pakistani media – that Pakistan could seek conventional arms, such as fixed-wing fighter aircraft, main battle tanks and air defence systems, from Russia. While conventional weapons sales to Pakistan have not come to pass, Pakistan has also been tentative about buying Russian arms for COIN/CT operations. Thus far, this has only come to pass in the Mi-35Ms, but has not progressed to other areas which Russia was willing to engage upon, such as assault rifles and wheeled and tracked APCs.