Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov has said that his country was supplying military equipment to Pakistan.
Morgulov’s statement came on Thursday (Jan 18) in a geo-political conference organized jointly by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and an Indian think-tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
The Russian Minister was joined in the discussion by the Indian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Gen VK Singh and the former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
It is believed that Pakistan Army Aviation Corps (PAAC) had recently received four Russian-made Mi-35M attack helicopters. Two years ago, Russia had lifted an embargo on supplying weapons and military hardware to Pakistan.
In August 2015, Pakistan and Russia signed a landmark defense deal that includes the sale of four Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan.
Pakistan and Russia had signed a bilateral defense cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening military-to-military relations in November 2014.
“Besides helicopters, Pakistan also appears interested in other Russian hardware, the daily Dawn of Pakistan said adding:
“Russia and Pakistan have lately been working on enhancing defense cooperation and are believed to have already covered a lot of ground. Exchange of visits by military commanders in recent years is an indication of progress achieved in this regard. India’s decision to enter into tighter embrace with the US had prompted Russia to rethink its defense relationship with Pakistan.”
A leading Russian defense commentator, Pavel Felgenhauer, was quoted as saying that the lifting of the embargo that had been in force since the Soviet era marked a sea change in Russian policy on arms sales, which until now have been focused on India amid difficult relations between New Delhi and Islamabad.
“This is an important, key change in Russian policy in the region,” he told AFP. “The sale of arms to Pakistan will abruptly worsen our relations with India, the main buyer of our arms… This risks dismantling our cooperation with India,” Felgenhauer said.
Meanwhile, the Russian state media reported in February 2017 that the Pakistan military is now purportedly considering purchasing a number of S-400 units as well.
“Russia has good tanks, helicopters, electronic equipment, air defense systems that Pakistan may consider. S-400 is a big ticket number and it will all depend on our budget,” a high ranking Pakistani military official told Sputnik News, the foreign language arm of Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
The Japanese magazine, the Diplomat reported last year that Russia lifted a longstanding arms embargo against Pakistan in 2014 and has been seeking closer defense ties with Islamabad ever since.
“This has been accelerated by India’s burgeoning defense relationship with the United States and the Russian defense industry’s loss of market share in India, although Moscow remains by far New Delhi’s biggest military hardware supplier overall,” the Diplomat concluded.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, during the geo-political dialogue, also accused the US-led NATO forces for helping the dreaded ISIS fighters to set up base in Northern Afghanistan.
Morgulov said his government has video evidence gathered from the ground that ISIS were being transported in helicopters to North Afghanistan. “We want to ask NATO and also to the Kabul government who provides those helicopters. It is Kabul that controls Afghan airspace,” he said.
Russian minister emphasized that the problem now is the support terrorists were getting from the western world in terms of weapons and funding.
Russian minister also rejected any military solution to Afghan issue, describing Donald Trump’s recent pronouncement an old policy which was also pursued by his predecessor Barrack Obama.
He said there was no escape for Kabul government, but to talk to the military opposition (Taliban) in order to bring reconciliation and peace in the region. He said Russia is trying to involve all in the talks, all the neighbors, stake holders and even the US. But he regretted that the US has not shown willingness to participate in this process.
On his part the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that it was important to engage with Taliban because “they are from our own villages and homes. They are not foreign. If they are not involved, the peace talks would not succeed. There won’t be sustainable peace.”
He said while Afghanistan was being accused of cultivating and making money of poppy crops, the fact is that the whole money is being pumped through banks in the west while the farmers and government in Afghanistan remain poor.
He said poppy cultivation was more in areas controlled by NATO forces. Both of them disagreed that China will be a problem in finding a solution to the problem, as it is very friendly with Pakistan.
“China is an enabler. It is well aware of the dangers from terrorists and it will never support it,” they said.
Karzai, however, praised Trump’s approach towards Pakistan. “We know and the US also knew all along about terror sanctuaries in Pakistan and terrorism being used as an instrument of state policy. Now that the US has admitted terror sanctuaries exist, I hope they will act,” he said.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net). He is the author of several books including Islam & Muslims in the 21st Century published in 2017.