ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia on Wednesday signed a landmark defence deal for the purchase of Mi-35 ‘Hind E’ attack helicopters.
“The agreement was signed by top defence officials from Pakistan and Russia in Rawalpindi on Wednesday,” said a military source.
Both countries were negotiating the deal for the past year, signalling a major thaw in relations between the two cold-war rivals.
Late last year, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived on a visit to Pakistan which was aimed at discussing bilateral defence cooperation with the Pakistani leadership.
Last year, CEO of Russia’s Rostec hi-tech corporation Sergey Chemezov said that Russia had lifted its embargo on delivery of military hardware and armaments to Pakistan and negotiations were being held on delivering helicopters.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry also said that both sides have been negotiating the delivery of helicopters and that Pakistan currently has a number of Mi-17 helicopters delivered by the United States to assist in the fight against militancy.
The Mi-35M helicopter is an exceedingly modernised version of Mi-24 (Hind) combat helicopter with new onboard equipment and avionics. It also has a more powerful engine and a different tail rotor.
Pakistan and Russia had signed a bilateral defence cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening military-to-military relations in November last year. The deal had to be followed by another ‘technical cooperation agreement’ to pave the way for sale of defence equipment to Pakistan.
Besides helicopters, Pakistan also appears interested in other Russian hardware.
Russia and Pakistan have lately been working on enhancing defence cooperation and are believed to have already covered a lot of ground. Exchange of visits by military commanders in recent years is an indication of progress achieved in this regard.
India’s decision to enter into tighter embrace with the US had prompted Russia to rethink its defence relationship with Pakistan.