Despite reservations expressed by India, Russia is looking to broaden its defence partnership with Islamabad by expanding a contract to supply assault helicopters to the country. Russia had earlier agreed to supply four Mi-35 choppers to Pakistan, but it now says it is willing to sell more provided Pakistan can shell out the cost for these.
Equipped with the latest navigation and avionics systems, according to Moscow-based rotorcraft designer and manufacturer Russian Helicopters, the Mi-35 chopper offers round-the-clock combat use of guided and unguided weapons in regular and challenging climate conditions.
According to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, Russia will sell four choppers in the first phase, after which the contract could be expanded depending upon Islamabad’s purchasing power.
In an interview to news agency Ria Novosti, Kabulov said Pakistan needed the choppers to fight the Taliban. “Probably they would like to continue once they have mastered them. There are no obstructions,” he said.
Responding to reports from Moscow, Indian government sources here said the issue will likely be discussed again with Russian authorities when Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to the Russian capital for his annual summit meet with Putin in the first week of December.
While he admitted that Russia was mindful of India’s interests, Kabulov said negotiations were on with Pakistan over the supply of other weapons and defence systems, including artillery, in which the latter had shown interest.
“They are also interested in tanks and artillery, and so on, but here we have to use caution in view of the strained Indo-Pakistani relations, even though such a contract is a minuscule deal against the background of our cooperation with India,” he said.