Pakistan is ready to expand its arms exports, with an eventual goal of selling $1 billion worth of defense equipment every year, reports Nikkei Asian Review.
A senior Pakistani government official told the Nikkei Asian Review 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. Five years ago, the number was under $60 million.
The report stated that the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the uptrend is reflective of Pakistan’s drive for greater weapons self-sufficiency. They declined to provide further details of what is driving the increase.
Pakistani officials, in-general, do not share figures related to national defense or associated matters like types of weapons and export destinations, said the report. China has played a big part in increasing Pakistan’s arms production. Together, China and Pakistan have manufactured JF-17 “Thunder” fighter jets.
“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 quoted the report.
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. Masood added, “Pakistan is seeking to tap export markets.”
There is no specific arms export target for the coming years, but eventually Islamabad will like to reach that $1 billion threshold.
According to Nikkei, in 2016, Pakistan signed a deal with Myanmar for the sale of 16 JF-17 fighters. The dollar value of the contract has not been publicly revealed, but officials privately have said it was for approximately $400 million, including spare parts. Pakistan has also sold three JF-17s to Nigeria.
There have been other defense deals – in 2017, Turkey contracted to buy 52 Super Mushshak training aircraft. A year later, Ankara agreed to buy 1,000 PK-83 general-purpose bombs.
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 that 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 say Pakistan can build a customer base by staying the course.