After making a self-goal in February 2022, when then Pakistan’s PM visited Russia during the onset of the Ukrainian war, try to assert independence from the US, Pakistan is caught in yet another controversy. Reports suggest that contrary to its claims, Pakistan is not impartial in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and has been involved in supplying arms and ammunition, made in Pakistan, for end use of Ukraine. Islamabad is apparently utilising third-country based defence suppliers and contractors to route these defence sales to Ukraine.
Credible inputs suggest that Islamabad-based arms supplier M/s DMI Associates has been in contact with Bulgaria based firm M/s Defence Industry Group to facilitate supply of manufactured defence stores to the Ukrainian government. Separately, a Slovakia-based defence company M/s Chemica had reportedly approached M/s Kestral, a defence supplier of ammunition of Pak Ordinance Factories, on behalf of Ukraine’s Defence Ministry.
M/s Kestral may be using the conflict to spread its activities in countries’ adjacent to Ukraine, namely Poland, Romania and Slovakia, as the CEO of Kestral, Liaqat Ali Beg, had visited these countries in May and June this year. In another such development, Kiev based Ukrainian Company M/s FORMAG was learnt to have approached Pakistan-based M/s Bluelines Cargo Pvt. Ltd to ship gloves meant for use of the Ukrainian army.
A recent report published in Riafan, an online Russian web portal, states that Pakistan’s Noor Khan Airbase in Rawalpindi has become a key base for the UK for the transportation of military equipment for Ukrainian Army. However, the fact that UK’s RAF C-17A flights are spending about 20 hours, ten times longer than anywhere, at the Noor Khan Airbase indicates that the aircraft is being loaded with supplies from Pakistan as well. It is also a fact that many types of ammunition compatible with Ukrainian weapons are produced in Pakistan.
The evidence of Ukraine using Pakistan-made ammunition comes from no other than ‘Ukraine Weapon Tracker’, a website which tracks usage/capture of weapons and ammunitions in Ukraine. The website mentions that Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) artillery is using 122 mm high-explosive fragmentation artillery shells made in Pakistan Ordnance Factory, Punjab.
It appears that while the Pakistani PM visited Russia defying political sensibilities in February 2022, at the onset of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, to display solidarity with Moscow, Islamabad is now out to make money off the Russia-Ukraine war by supplying much needed ammunition to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military is reportedly using Pakistan-made artillery against Russian troops. As per reports, 122 mm HR artillery is being used against Russian troops in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.
These ties run deep. Pakistan has awarded a contract worth $85.6 million for modernizing T-80UD battle tanks to Ukrainian state arms conglomerate UkrOboronProm. Earlier this year Ukraine also discussed with Pakistan new orders for the supply of 6TD1 and 6TD2 engines. In 2021 alone, Pakistan signed an $85.6 million contract to repair its T‑80UD fleet in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s relations with Pakistan are largely about weapons. Over the past few decades, Islamabad has been among the most loyal clients of Ukraine’s arms industry. Last year, Pakistan Army Chief visited Ukraine eyeing to shop “sophisticated” arms.
Pakistan has been keen to enhance defence cooperation with Ukraine on the basis of Transfer of Technology and Joint ventures in the future, as both sides can benefit from each other’s experience.
This was stated by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit to a Military Test Site in Kharkiv region of Ukraine last year. He had also witnessed field tests of various weapons and equipment and took keen interest in the tests and appreciated the performance of all ranks associated with the projects.
The Pakistani Army Chief had said defence cooperation between both countries has always been traditionally an important component of Pak-Ukraine bilateral relations.
Interestingly, Pakistan PM Shahbaz Sharif met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Samarkand on the sidelines of the SCO Summit to talk about a possible gas pipeline from Russia to Pakistan in the backdrop of Pakistan floods and precarious economic situation.
But a concrete outcome on the gas pipeline proposal is unlikely, given Pakistan’s role in supporting Ukraine war efforts via an air bridge and promoting terror infrastructure through the Afghan soil.
Sharif’s attempts were geared towards balancing Pakistan’s policy amid the Army’s recent efforts to woo the West for supply of arms and aid, sources said. Pakistan’s suggestion that it can help in security situation in Afghanistan while supporting Haqqani network and ISKP has not been missed in the Russian security establishment.
The concerns have grown following the attack on the Russian Embassy in Kabul. Russia has no nonsense approach on terror and Islamabad may face music.
At the same time, China, wary of losing Myanmar's arms market to Russia, is pushing Pakistan to make key defence supplies to the ruling junta.
With coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing making regular visits to Russia with a shopping list for jet fighters, helicopters and missiles, China is concerned that it will lose Myanmar as a customer for its weapons but cannot directly sell arms to Myanmar due to fear of sanctions, said people aware of the matter.