Pakistan is negotiating a deal to purchase Sukhoi-35 ‘Flanker E’ fighter jets from Russia, which is expected to be the largest defense deal between the two countries, according to IHS Jane’s.
A senior Pakistani government official confirmed the discussions between Pakistan and Russia regarding the supply of Su-35 fighter jets. However, the official emphasized that it is “too early” to tell whether both countries will reach an agreement.
Previous reports indicated that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov revealed that the two countries are in talks on the supply of Su-35 fighter jets.
According to the Pakistani official, they are interested in the Su-35 fighter jets because the country’s Air Force needs a twin-engine fighter with the capacity to fly longer range than the JF-17 and to penetrate deeply into the enemy’s territory.
Pakistan’s Air Force has a mixed fleet of Lockheed Martin F16 Dassault Mirage-5s, Chinese-manufactured F-7s, and the JF-17 Thunder. China and Pakistan partnered in producing the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet.
Pakistan strengthening relations with Russia
Pakistan has been strengthening its relationship with Russia while facing increasing tensions with the United States regarding its efforts to fight the Islamic militants in the region. The U.S. considers Pakistan as an unreliable partner in fighting terrorist groups.
Pakistan recently agreed to purchase Mi-35 “Hinde E” attack helicopters from Russia. The Pakistani government did not reveal the details of the deal including the value and schedule for the delivery of the Mi-35 helicopters.
Last year, Russia and Pakistan signed a bilateral defense cooperation agreement to boost its military-to-military relations. Both countries are expected to sign a technical cooperation agreement for the sale of Russian military equipment to Islamabad.
Both countries are also expected to sign the North-South gas pipeline agreement by the end of September, according to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.
India would be extremely upset with Pakistan-Russia deal
Defense industry analysts suggested that Russia is willing to sell advance hardware to Pakistan despite its longstanding relationship with India. The Russian government also signed a defense cooperation agreement with the Pakistani government in November last year.
Brian Cloughley, an author, analyst and former Australian defense attache to Islamabad commented, “The Indians would be extremely upset to the point of a major diplomatic rift.”
India previously stated that Russia is crossing the “red line” for selling military hardware to Pakistan.
On the other hand, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov emphasized that the country’s relationship with India will no be affected by its expanding military cooperation with Pakistan.
Ryabkov explained that Russia and Pakistan are close partners, and India will not be jealous on the contract under negotiations involving the Su-35 fighter jets and Mi-35 helicopters.
Meanwhile, the trade agreements between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been shelved. The primary issue was whether the Pakistani government would allow trade from India to cross its territory.
According to Afghanistan Deputy Commerce Minister, Muzamel Shinware, it was “illogical and unfair” not to include Indian trade crossing Pakistan into Afghanistan. On the other hand, a Pakistani official commented, “If you put India on the table, then the whole thing stops.”