Pakistan bought two attack helicopters, a Chinese Z-10 and a Russian Mi-35, apparently left the US, which had previously been the major weapons supplier to the country, feeling left out. The US Department of State subsequently announced an offer to sell Pakistan 15 AH-1Z Super Cobra attack helicopters, reportedly to “support Pakistan’s ability to counter terrorism.”
Pakistan is replacing its outdated AH-1S/F Cobra attack helicopters for missions in Waziristan to tackle Taliban militias in the region.
The US is also offering arms including 1,000 AGM-114 Hellfire II anti-tank missiles, an identification friend or foe (IFF) system, missile warning systems, infrared radiation-emitting decoy projectiles and radar warning receivers (RWR), in all totaling US$952 million.
Pakistan was reportedly taken aback at this news. Although Pakistan has long expressed its desire to buy Super Cobra helicopters from the US to replace its fleet of Cobras, the sale has been obstructed by certain members of the US congress. A military commentator stated that congress’ change of heart is due to the competition between China and Russia to sell Pakistan its helicopters.
At the end of March, Alexey Yurievich Dedov, the Russian ambassador to Pakistan, announced that he had already received an order of 20 Mi-35 attack helicopters from Pakistan; Chinese produced Z-10s are also said to have arrived in Pakistan and are in assembly and undergoing test flights. At the start of April, Pakistan was reportedly negotiating with China again to buy eight submarines worth US$4-5 billion in total. Western media reports suggested this might be the largest arms deal yet for China.
On March 23, Pakistan held a Republic Day military parade in the country’s capital of Islamabad. Amongst the weapons on display there were early warning aircraft, main battle tanks and the PAC JF-17 Thunder, co-developed by Pakistan and China, making Chinese weapons the focus of the event.
Pakistan is a big weapons client for China and forms the momentum behind China’s drive to become a major weapons exporter, according to London’s Financial Times. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute stated that in the last five years, four fifths of Chinese arms exports have been to Pakistan.
A Western media outlet cited former Pakistani diplomat Ali Sarwar Naqvi as saying, “China has its own strategic reasons to help Pakistan in this area. As India prepares to head into the Pacific Ocean, the Chinese are looking to head into the Indian Ocean.”