No new offensive capabilities for Pakistan’s armed forces
Even before India announced its much-publicised hike in defence spending, General Musharraf and his foreign minister were wheeling their supermarket carts around some of Europe’s capital cities. While they were unable to purchase the biggest items on their shopping lists, Musharraf did succeed in making some headway procuring on some important pieces of military hardware.
The Pakistani Air Force (PAF) lacks aircraft with sufficient offensive capabilities that can penetrate India’s defences, and with India procuring Phalcon airborne early warning systems from Israel the PAF’s offensive capabilities would be further degraded. Considering that Pakistan depends on fighter aircraft as one means to deliver its nuclear weapons (ballistic missiles are the other), availability of new fighter aircraft and spares is very important to the PAF. Due to American sanctions, Pakistan is unable to secure the delivery of a squadron of F-16s which Pakistan paid for in the late 1980s. Collaboration with China for JF-17 and J-10 aircraft will give the PAF a change to upgrade its fleet only towards the end of the decade, leading military strategists to see an immediate need for advanced fighters. That need fueled Pakistan’s interest in the Anglo-Swedish Gripen fighter.
Sweden’s refusal to sell Gripens to Pakistan during Musharraf’s high-profile visit was seen by some as a snub. However, later reports suggested that Pakistan is close to procuring 14 SAAB2000 turbo-props both to serve as a platform for Ericsson’s ERIEYE Airborne early warning systems, as well as for Pakistan’s airline to replace its ageing Fokker fleet. The deal is yet to be inked, and Pakistan’s air chief will be sent to Sweden to negotiate its purchase.
Meanwhile Pakistan’s foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri received a polite refusal from Russia on the supply of arms, although there were reports (subsequently officially denied) suggesting that Russia had agreed to sell a number of T-90s main battle tanks to the Pakistani Army.
Pakistan will be spending about $1.7 billion on these purchases; with the United States writing off close to $500m in debts, signing the cheque has become easier for Musharraf.
- Pakistan is building a new military air transport base at Masroor to house the new C-130s provided by the United States.
The US Congress has approved the first instalment of $701 million for Pakistan from the $3 billion package announced last year.
The instalment includes $300 million for defence and $300 million from the economic support fund. A separate amount of $101 million is for developmental projects and law and order such as education, health and anti-narcotics activities. [Dawn]