Pakistan Triples Arms Exports, Aims at $1Bln a Year: Report

With China as its mentor, Pakistan forays into arms exports to countries with budget constraints

DESPARDES — Pakistan, known as a major importer of weapons from China and the United States, is poised to significantly expand its arms exports, with an eventual goal of selling $1 billion worth of defense equipment every year, reports Nikkei Asian Review (NAR).

A senior Pakistani government official told NAR that arms exports exceeded $210 million in the fiscal year through June. The total represents a significant increase from the approximately $100 million in arms sales two years earlier.

However, a senior Pakistani defense official told DesPardes that it’s not possible with the industrial base of public sector and non-participation of private sector.

Five years earlier, another official noted, according to NAR, Pakistan’s defense exports came to approximately $60 million.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the uptrend is reflective of Pakistan’s drive for greater weapons self-sufficiency.

“The JF-17 has helped Pakistan lay the groundwork for self-sufficiency,” said retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, a former Pakistan military commander and defense analyst. According to Masood, China has also helped Pakistan produce tanks. In addition, China has supported Pakistan’s air force through the JF-17 project and its navy with assistance in building warships and submarines. “Now,” Masood said, “Pakistan is seeking to tap export markets.”

There is no specific arms export target for the coming years, but eventually Islamabad would like to reach that $1 billion threshold.

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Analysts say collaboration with China has helped Pakistan improve its ability to produce advanced weapons. “Pakistan has graduated well beyond just a manufacturer of small weapons,” a senior foreign ministry official said. “We are now looking at big-ticket items.”

Nazir Hussain, a professor of international relations at Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University, said Pakistan now has strong potential to significantly raise its defense exports despite a global market that is dominated by the U.S. and other Western countries.

“Ultimately, Pakistan’s access to some of these markets will be limited,” Hussain said, adding that Islamabad will have to rely on countries with budget constraints, such as in Africa.

Other sources with weapons-making experience told NAR Pakistan can build a customer base by staying the course.

However, a senior Pakistani defense official told DesPardes it’s not possible with the industrial base of public sector and non-participation of tprivate sector. “We may achieve one odd spike with sale of JF 17 sale, but lack capacity for sustainable growth. There has been sustained lack of investment in Defense sector; like all the sectors”.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he’s not authorized to officially comment.

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