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HEADLINE = Su-35 for Pakistan: Pie in the sky

INTRO = There are a number of reasons why the Russian offer to sell the Sukhoi
Su-35 jet fighter to Pakistan is on a crash course.

Is Russia planning to win friends in Pakistan and lose influence in India? It is a

foregone conclusion that if Russia sells the advanced Su-35 fighter aircraft to
Pakistan, it would lead to a major diplomatic rift with India. So why did Deputy
Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov make the statement that Russia and Pakistan
were negotiating for the delivery of an unspecified number of Su-35 jets to
The best case scenario is that Russia is acting like a jilted lover wanting to make
India come back into its arms. As India enters into an increasing number of
defence partnerships with Russias rivals, particularly Israel and the US, but also
France and the UK, Moscow believes two can play the game. It is in this backdrop
that Russia has entered into a defence cooperation agreement with Pakistan.
Another reason could be that the judgement of some Kremlin players is clouded
by the pressure of economic sanctions and they would like to grab a larger share
of the arms market in which Russia traditionally has been a leader. However, this
possibility can be discounted as western sanctions have not had the intended
impact. Despite an unfavourable geopolitical climate in 2010-14, Russia
accounted for 27 per cent of the global arms market,
(http://books.sipri.org/files/FS/SIPRIFS1503.pdf) with approximately $14 billion in
exports. In fact, Rosoboronexport, Russias weapons export cartel, has orders
exceeding $40 billion on its books.
Russias offer to Pakistan could, therefore, be in the same category as the
forever-on-hold S-300 sale to Iran. Moscow has attempted to squeeze diplomatic
concessions from the US and Israel as payoff for withholding the air-defence
system from Tehran.
Likewise, the Russia-Pakistan talks over the Su-35 could be a ploy to get India
fully on board the PAK-FA stealth fighter programme. The Indian Air Force (IAF)
was originally committed to buy 200 of these fifth generation fighters but has
since cut back the planned buys to 127. Now India wants to buy these jets
directly off the production line from Russia rather than jointly develop the
Perhaps the Russians believe that Pakistans possession of the Su-35 could scare
India to buy larger number of the PAK-FA. India may also be forced to purchase
other advanced Russian weapons as sops for blocking the Sukhoi sale.
What can the Su-35 do?

With around 60 MiG-29s and a Su-30 fleet projected at 300, India currently
enjoys an enormous advantage over Pakistan. While India would like to maintain
this edge, the Su-35 will make a dent albeit a slight one in the IAFs
advantage. Although the much larger IAF, with its AWACS force multipliers, would
easily tackle the Super Flanker, the presence of a brand new fighter that is
more powerful than anything in the IAF could cause some anxiety among
Indias war planners.
According to Pakistani analyst and former PAF pilot Kaiser Tufail,
(http://www.dawn.com/news/1206088) the Su-35 being a twin-engine aircraft
with an extremely long range, would help Pakistan have a significant and potent
presence in the Arabian Sea.
He adds: These fighters would also allow unhindered patrolling by naval (long
range maritime patrol aircraft), as well as providing top cover to our fleet at
sea....Essentially, I see it as a guarantor of maritime security as far as the
airspace is concerned.
To be sure, the Su-35 will be a game changer only if wielded in sufficient
numbers and in sync with other air defence assets and missiles. But Pakistan is
unlikely to order more than two squadrons of the Su-35 because of the expenses
of operating a heavy fighter. The Super Flanker burns as much fuel per hour as
an entire Karachi neighbourhood. Plus, twin engines would mean double the
maintenance time of a single-engine F-16 in the PAF fleet.
Diplomatic powwow
How serious is the offer? Ryabkov is a junior minister in Russian cabinet and
probably wants his 15 minutes of fame. He has clearly got it. But making an offer
to a financially insolvent client that is also an exporter of terror is one thing.
Making it stick is a different ball game. Approval for the sale will have to go
through several rungs of the Russian parliament Duma and the military, plus
there are higher powers in Vladimir Putins inner circle who can overrule
Ryabkov. So theres every possibility that the Su-35 for Pakistan will end up being
the equivalent of the S-300 for Iran.
However, in the highly unlikely scenario that the Su-35 wears Pakistani colours,
Russia can say goodbye to its largest buyer. Although Russia was the second
largest arms exporter in the world during the period 2010-14, it was less
diversified than the US. According to SIPRI,
(http://books.sipri.org/files/FS/SIPRIFS1503.pdf) Three countries India, China
and Algeria accounted for almost 60 per cent of total Russian exports. India
alone accounted for 39 per cent.
In contrast, the US which led with 31 per cent, had Korea as its top buyer at just
9 per cent. The US therefore had a better spread than Russia.
So without India, Russias arms exports will atrophy. And although the likes of
Algeria, Indonesia and Malaysia continue to be steady buyers of Russian

weapons, the flows to these countries are a trickle rather than a torrent. No
country offers Russia such a long-term market as India.
India was also the first international customer for the MiG-29, and in fact
expressed interested in it during its development in the early 1980s. Again, the
IAF was among the first air forces in the world to induct the Su-27/30. Indias
early investment in the PAK-FA project is enough indication of its seriousness in
the project.
In the backdrop it seems unlikely Russia will go ahead with ramping defence ties
with Pakistan beyond a few helicopter gunships.
Stopping the Kozyrevs
If hell is run by an Indian, there is a special place in it for Andrei Kozyrev, the
Russian foreign minister from 1990 to 1996. It was under his watch that India
diversified away from Russia. Kozyrev, who wanted close ties with the West, had
declared after the Soviet Union was dissolved that the new Russia would no
longer give special importance to India and would in fact treat India and Pakistan
as equals. So basically, the country that was indirectly responsible for the deaths
of 15,000 Soviet lives during the Afghanistan War was preferred over friendly
Deepa Ollapally of George Washington University writes in the paper IndoRussian Strategic Relations: New Choices and Constraints, Kozyrev relegated
India to a secondary role. During this initial phase, which was to last until 1996,
India was forced to take the initiative to try to build new bridges to the Duma and
utilise earlier Soviet lobbies. India was able to exploit lobbies against Kozyrev's
tilt which had formed in the Russian Federation presidential apparatus. It was
aided by such figures such as Vladimir Lukin who called for greater attention to
be paid to old allies.
However, then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao had no choice but to diversify
India's security links as its most crucial erstwhile ally continued to labour in
confusion and anxiety over its economic and political status, with no clear signal
regarding its foreign policy preferences.
Kozyrev currently lives in Miami where he has acquired money and a nice tan. He
slams Putin to the delight of his American backers (or handlers?). The thing India
and Russia must do is sidestep or sideline such actors and keep the phone lines
open. For, just as there are a few Indian leaders wanting closer ties with the West
at Moscows expense, there are some Russian leaders who cannot see the
importance of having India on their side.
According to Ryabkov, increasing military cooperation between Islamabad and
Moscow would not negatively impact Russia's ties with India. His statements
clearly vindicate Raos decision to wean India away from over-dependence on
Russia. The Deputy Foreign Minister should read what Rao did when Kozyrev
snubbed India. Compared with Rao, current Prime Minister Narendra Modi

belongs to the right leaning RSS with pro-Americanism in its DNA. He wont stop
at mere diversification.