Pakistan and Russia are close to finalising a deal for purchase of Mi-35 ‘Hind E’ attack helicopters, a military source told Dawn after the conclusion of Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s three-day visit to Moscow.
The source said an agreement would be signed ‘very soon’. He, however, avoided disclosing when and where the accord would be inked and how many helicopters were being purchased. Pakistan had been pursuing the helicopter purchase deal since 2009.
The two countries had signed a bilateral defence cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening military-to-military relations in November last year. The deal had to be followed by another ‘technical cooperation agreement’ to pave the way for sale of defence equipment to Pakistan.
On the last day of his Moscow visit, Gen Sharif attended a meeting on the proposed technical accord.
Although there was no formal word on the outcome of the meeting, the source said: “There was significant movement towards operationalising the defence accord, including defence acquisitions.”
Besides helicopters, Pakistan also appears interested in other Russian hardware.
The army chief spent about 15 hours at an arms expo near Moscow that featured Russia’s cutting edge weapons and military equipment. He inspected not only the weapon systems on display but also saw their live demonstration.
“The army chief spent whole of June 16 witnessing dynamic defence expo. Highly impressive display of all types of arms, aircraft, and helis,” military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa, who accompanied the army chief on the Russia visit, tweeted.
Besides the defence equipment deal, Pakistan and Russia have expressed interest in a training arrangement under which military officers would train in each other’s country.
“Discussed ways to enhance cooperation, more military exchanges to benefit from each other’s combat experience,” Gen Bajwa said about the visit.
The army chief held talks with Russian Land Forces Commander Colonel General Oleg Sayukov, Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov and other defence leaders. The army chief also met Sergey Narishkin, Chairman of State Duma of Russian Federation.
Gen Bajwa in his tweet quoted Mr Narishkin as having said that Russia “will stand by Pakistan in its fight against terrorism and extremism for stability in the region. Our relations are independent, more consistent, and will further grow”.