Close on the heels of a deal to supply Mi-35 attack helicopters, Pakistan has discussed the purchase of Su-35 combat jets from Russia--a move that is not expected to go down well in New Delhi.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has discussed buying Su-35 ‘Flanker-E’ fighter aircraft from Russia in “potentially the largest defence deal between the two countries”, leading defence publication Jane’s reported on its website.
An unnamed senior Pakistani government official confirmed the discussions. However, a final decision on the deal is yet to be made, the report said.
The Pakistan official was responding to Russian media reports that deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had said talks were underway for the sale of an unspecified number of Su-35s.
The official said “it’s too early to say if a deal will conclude and the terms”, but the discussions reflected “Russia’s willingness to sell advanced hardware (to) Pakistan despite Moscow’s longstanding ties with India”, the report said.
In August, Pakistan and Russia signed an agreement for the sale of four Mi-35M Hind E attack helicopters. Details about the deal, such as its value and the timeframe for the delivery of the helicopters, have not been made public.
Pakistani media reports suggested the helicopter deal was finalised when Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif visited Russia in June. The deal has been perceived as a major shift by Russia, which was earlier reluctant to sell military hardware to Pakistan as it did not want to anger India, one of its biggest customers.
Russia also signed a military cooperation agreement with Pakistan during defence minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Islamabad in November last year.
Indian officials have said in the past that sales of Russian military hardware to Pakistan would amount to the crossing of a “red line”.