ISLAMABAD — Ukraine's efforts to increase its defense relationship with Pakistan are unlikely to succeed due to the turmoil in that country and Pakistan's growing relationship with Ukraine's nemesis Russia, according to analysts.
The push by Ukraine was reported by The Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), which claimed Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Lakomov had said Ukraine was "ready to cooperate with Pakistan in the defense sector with supply and joint production" of cargo aircraft, and "Pakistan could be a regional partner for ... renovation/modification process to production."
The report also specifically mentioned the Antonov An-225 Dream/Cossack, but analysts have dismissed any Pakistani involvement with this huge six-engine transport as simply unfeasible.
There was a time when Ukraine's defense industry was of critical importance to Pakistan supplying T-80UD main battle tanks (MBT), as well as engines and subsystems for the locally built Al-Khalid and Al-Zarrar MBTs (in addition to the design for the latter, which is an upgrade of the Chinese Type-59).
This later involved the supply of four Ilyushin Il-78 Midas multirole tanker-transport aircraft.
Ukrainian defense companies are also regular exhibitors at Pakistan's biennial IDEAS series of defense exhibitions, where they constantly hope to build on previous success.
However, analysts, such as analyst, author and former Australian defense attache to Islamabad Brian Cloughley, say Ukraine's defense industry star is quickly fading in Pakistan due to domestic turmoil and Pakistan's warming relationship with Russia.
"Ukraine is grasping at straws all round the world. It is in a state of almost terminal decline, with rampant corruption and ineffective leadership. Internal administration is catastrophically inept and the economy is in tatters," Cloughley said. "It does make good military equipment and aircraft, but one wonders how long it can keep doing so.
"The Kiev government is trying to discourage other countries from buying Russian — and, indeed, having anything to do with Russia, with the strong support of the US and some NATO nations — and the Lakomov approach is probably symptomatic of this campaign."
Russia is of increasing importance to Pakistan. It supplies the Klimov RD-93 that powers the JF-17 Thunder fighter. A number of Mi-35M Hind helicopter gunships are on order and negotiations were reported for the Su-35 Flanker.
Analyst, author and former Pakistani Air Force pilot Kaiser Tufail said anything that could upset this is to be avoided.
"I think at this stage, when relations with Russia are on the mend, we must not take any hasty steps and upset the cart, so to speak," he said.
He is dismissive of any further cooperation with Ukraine, at least in respect to the aviation industry.
"Ukraine's aviation industry is in doldrums in a cash-strapped country. I do not think they have much to offer," he said. "As for transport aircraft, we have no need, as the fleet of C-130s and CASA CN-235 are doing a fine job. The existing Il-78 aerial tankers purchased from Ukraine have only found some use in hauling oversized cargo, and have been a disappointment as far as its noisy and gas-guzzling engines go. With that legacy, the PAF would be wary to look at their aircraft, even the newer models."
Tufail believes Russia is therefore a much safer bet, but he offered a note of caution: "Russia has much more to offer, though in the prevailing situation in Syria, taking sides would not be prudent for Pakistan, if it is choosing between Russia or Ukraine."
Usman Ansari is the Pakistan correspondent for Defense News.