New Delhi: Pakistan’s ties with China and Russia have not affected trade with Ukraine. Reports that it will ‘transfer’ 44 tanks to the war-torn European nation have come as no surprise given that trade between both countries goes back three decades.
“Ukraine and Pakistan are old partners in defence trade, and there is nothing new in this,” said a Pakistani journalist who did not want to be named.
Ukraine has supplied $1.6 billion of weapons to Pakistan till 2020, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. And this has been reciprocated.
Last August, there were similar reports that Howitzer projectiles from Pakistan were being shipped to Ukraine. At the time, the Twitter handle, Ukraine Weapons Tracker, said that Pakistan was part of an air bridge for supplying weapons to Ukraine.
On 1 January, the same Twitter handle had tweeted that a new type of Pakistani artillery ammunition was spotted with the Ukraine army— the M4A2 propellant charge. It was speculated that a Western backer had purchased Pakistani ammunition in 2022.
In February this year, an ammunition consignment of 162 containers was shipped via Karachi to Ukraine as part of the pact between the UK and Pakistan’s Ordnance Factories.
Just a rumour
This time around, Pakistan is planning to ‘transfer’ 44 T-80UD main battle tanks (MBTs) in exchange for financial assistance from Western countries, according to a 21 March report published in The Economic Times, which cited unnamed sources.
Author of Military Inc and columnist for ThePrint, Ayesha Siddiqa, said that Pakistan is not sending its own tanks.
“Pakistan has Ukrainian T-80UD tanks bought during the 1990s. There are rumours that these old tanks are being sent back and will be refurbished by Ukraine. However, this does not quantify much because Ukraine is getting German tanks. I do not think Pakistan will be sending its own MBTs to Ukraine,” she said.
The alleged deal has caused barely a rumble in local media.
A senior journalist from Pakistan who wanted to remain anonymous said there is hardly any coverage because nothing has been confirmed so far. “These are still rumours,” said the journalist.
According to The Economic Times report, Pakistan has bagged a deal with Ukraine for the repair of its tanks at a cost of $85.6 million.
These defence shipments are being transferred from Karachi to Ukraine via ports in Germany and Poland as part of a memorandum of understanding between Pakistan and UK’s defence ministry.
“If India can buy weapons from Russia and USA at the same time, why cannot Pakistan do business with Russia and Ukraine at the same time too?” senior Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir told ThePrint.
Pakistan has a total of 2,467 MBTs. The T-80 UD version is an improved version of the Soviet-made T-80 tanks. These tanks are fitted with a diesel engine in place of the high-performance gas turbine, it has advantages such as high power output and the ability to start when the temperature is as low as -40°C.