New Delhi: Russia’s cooperation with Pakistan is limited to the anti-terrorism sphere and it will not sell any war equipment to India’s neighbour, Russian sources have told ThePrint amid reports that Islamabad is in talks with Moscow for the purchase of tanks and new air defence systems following the Balakot air strike.
“We have already informed India and the Indian government is assured that Russia will not be selling any war equipment to Pakistan,” a high-ranking source in the Russian defence establishment told ThePrint. “Our cooperation with Pakistan is restricted to anti-terrorism capability enhancement.”
The source explained that Russia values its historical relationship with India and pointed out that the country has been the backbone of India’s defence establishment and will continue to back New Delhi.
Over the past few months, multiple intelligence reports have suggested that Islamabad may be looking at building deeper military ties with Moscow, especially through the purchase of Russian systems.
Recent intel reports had indicated that Pakistan, rattled by the surgical strike carried out by the Indian Air Force on terrorist training camps in Balakot, has decided to buy the Russian-made Pantsir Missile System, an anti-aircraft artillery weapon system that relies on a medium-range surface-to-air missile.
A Pakistani military delegation is supposed to visit Russia soon. There was also a report earlier that Pakistan is eyeing Russian T90 tanks, which are the mainstay of the Indian Army.
Pakistan tilt may be due to US snub
Sources in the Indian defence establishment said that Pakistan is desperately trying to build a relationship with Russia as the US is no longer its trusted ally.
“Pakistan military is now slowly increasingly dependent on Chinese systems rather than the American ones,” a source explained. “It is looking at Russia for equipment and Russia will look at Pakistan as a new market.”
Pakistan’s defence ties with Russia have moved past the bitter Cold War hostilities in recent years and the chill in the relations between Pakistan and the US has further pushed the country towards Russia and China.
Russia and Pakistan had in 2015 signed a deal for four Mi-35 M attack helicopters, which has already been delivered. The following year, Russia and Pakistan carried out their first joint military exercise.
This had led to a lot of heartburn in the Indian defence establishment and was raised at multiple levels between the governments of India and Russia.
“The attack helicopters were meant for anti-terrorism purposes,” the Russian source cited above said. “At no point is Russia in talks with or planning to sell tanks, missile systems or aircraft to Pakistan.”
Following last year’s joint exercise, Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Qamar Bajwa said, it is a great forum to reinforce the existing relationship between the two militaries.