Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 30
In a signal of changing times that could potentially sour India-Russia military relations, the Pakistan army is eyeing purchase of some 360 Russian-made T-90 tanks — the Indian Army uses the same tanks, that are produced under licence at Avadi, Tamil Nadu.
Moscow has, so far, not given its nod and New Delhi, has of course, been using its diplomatic heft to prevent such a purchase. Sources confirmed on Sunday that Pakistan has made a request to Russia for the T-90 tanks.
In the past, Pakistan has purchased Russian helicopters Mi-35, an attack copter, and the Mi-17, a transport copter. India objected both times since it uses the same equipment — nearly 65 per cent of India’s equipment comes from Moscow. A Pakistan-Russia defence agreement was signed in 2014.
The first hint of Pakistan wanting the T-90s came when in April this year its then Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan was quoted by Russian news website Sputnik as saying, “We are interested in T-90 tanks and it is not going to be a one-time purchase but a long-term commitment.” The matter has progressed and now a serious bid is being made from Islamabad.
The former Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (retd), said, “I don’t think Russia will agree to such a request and they should not.” Former Western Army Commander Lt Gen KJ Singh (retd), who was in the Armoured Corps, felt
“it would be sacrilegious of Russia to agree”.
Pakistan’s swing away from the US is evident. It has been relying more on Chinese equipment in the past decade. Gen Bhatia said “since the US is no more giving aid and the Chinese equipment given to Pakistan is not the top-end of technology, the Pakistan swing towards Russia is visible”.
It is not that Pakistan will be able to challenge India, immediately. Gen KJ Singh said, “Even if Russia gives the tank, there will be a long gestation and training period.” Reminding of the past, he added, “Pakistan army’s much superior Patton tanks were felled by the Indian ‘Centurion’ tanks in 1971. It all depends on crew training.”
The Indian estimates are that Pakistan is looking to revamp its armoured fleet by 2025. This will include at least 360 tanks procured globally (T-90 is the chosen one so far), besides producing 220 tanks with help from China.
Islamabad inducting Chinese VT-4 tanks
- Pakistan army is also in the process of inducting Chinese VT-4 and Oplod-P tanks from Ukraine. Trials for both conducted
- India has 67 armoured regiments — 46 tanks in each — comprising mainly T-90, T-72 and Arjun tanks. The Pakistan army has 51 regiments — that include Ukrainian, Chinese origin tanks
- Apart from tanks, Pak army is procuring 245 150mm SP Mike-10 guns from Italy, of which it has received 120
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