An air defense rocket system is displayed at MILEX-2014 in Belarus. A delegation of Pakistani officials attended the exhibition. (Viktor Drachev / AFP)
ISLAMABAD — Belarus and Pakistan have expressed an interest in pursuing closer defense industrial relations, but the likely path forward is uncertain at this early stage of talks, say analysts.
A press release by Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production outlined how Tanveer Hussain, federal minister for defense production, led a delegation of Pakistani defense officials to the seventh International Exhibition of Arms and Military Machinery MILEX-2014 held in Minsk, Belarus, July 9-12.
Hussain was to have met various Belarus officials, including Defense Minister Yuri Zhadobin, Chairman of the State Military & Industrial Committee Sergei Gurulev, Foreign Affairs Minister Vladimir Makei, and defense industry officials.
According to the the press release, “All these were high level meetings after which both sides announced their interest in establishing mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of Defence production. Both sides agreed to develop a plan of action for establishing military & technical cooperation between the two countries.”
Hussain highlighted the strides Pakistan’s own defense industry had made, especially when it came to projects such as the JF-17 Thunder aircraft and armored fighting vehicles.
The press release further stated, “A possibility to establish service centers and technical maintenance centers were also explored.”
An invitation was also extended to the Belarusians to attend Pakistan’s biannual defense exhibition, which was accepted. The International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS2014) will be held in Karachi in December.
Analysts welcome the move for closer defense industry cooperation, but say it is too early to speculate how successful this will be.
“Cooperation in defense production between Belarus and Pakistan would benefit both countries, given the combination of undoubted expertise and reasonably priced production, but negotiations are at a very early stage indeed, and although there may be an agreement to cooperate, this will take time,” said former Australian defense attache to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley.
He said a careful analysis of their requirements will reveal the best avenues for cooperation, but despite their strengths, this may be in a non-traditional area.
“Both countries will have to analyze their national requirements and where best to cooperate in combining their capabilities. Both are technologically advanced in production of armored vehicles, but there is decreasing emphasis on MBTs [given the likely shape of the future land battle] and more probable that they could get together over IED-protected troop carriers.”
Similarly, though he is uncertain what Pakistan will acquire from Belarus, Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher on the Arms Transfers and Arms Production Programme for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said there is a natural attraction for Pakistan toward Belarus.
“Belarus doesn’t produce that much and most is components — they seem quite strong in electronics. Generally, Belarus seems willing to sell to most states and probably at ‘reasonable prices,’” he said.
He said Pakistan may be on the lookout for inexpensive systems to improve existing weapons or weapons produced or planned in Pakistan, but is uncertain what Belarus might want in return.
“It seems more one of those general visits to arms fairs. It might result in something, but just as well not,” Wezeman added.
Belarus has not hitherto exported defense equipment to Pakistan, and Wezeman agrees there could be a link with the thaw in the Pakistani-Russian relationship, as “Belarus is a very close ally of Russia and some of what Belarus produces is for Russian weapons for Russian use and export.” ■