By: Omer Aamir
Pakistan and Ukraine established bilateral relations on 16th March 1992. According to Ukraine’s embassy in Pakistan, the relations are described as ‘dynamic, with collaborations taking place in political, legal, military-technical, economic and humanitarian domains’. There is a multitude of opportunities for joint ventures between Pakistan and Ukraine. The range of possible collaboration goes from depths of the sea to the extents of space.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in 2017 for the joint production of tanks in Pakistan. In this regard, Al-Khalid Main Battle tanks are being upgraded with the help of Ukrainian expertise. Pakistan and Ukraine have been collaborating in various defence-related projects for a considerable duration now and therefore this MoU did not come out from the blue.
More recently, during International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) 2018, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence Production known as UkrObronProm entered into negotiations with Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production. Talks were undertaken to expand military-technical cooperation in the field of armoured construction, particularly logistical support, maintenance, repair and supply of equipment for modernization. In addition, agreements were planned for aircraft and naval equipment, ammunition and high precision anti-tank weaponry. In the same meeting, the Deputy Secretary of National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine also informed the Federal Minister for Defence Production of Pakistan about regional geopolitical developments.
More recently, in 2019 Pakistan’s Air Chief also stated that repair of aircraft, training of Pakistani maintenance specialists and up-gradation of PAF helicopters could possibly be contracted to Ukraine. The Ukrainian delegation at the time stated that the country was ready to provide the widest possible range of aircraft repair services to Pakistan.
Analysts have also postulated that the two countries can work in collaboration and look for 3rd party markets, particularly in the defence sector. If Pakistan co-funds Ukrainian programs, it will get ownership equity and a share in manufacturing for Pakistani and Ukrainian use alike.
This development strengthens existing Ukrainian-Pakistani ties in the aviation industry and points towards a positive trajectory where future opportunities can be jointly taken advantage of. The result of such a cooperative venture will prove beneficial for the economic and diplomatic growth of both countries.
In the political sphere, Pakistan voiced concerns that there should be a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Crimea and adopted a neutral stance. This well-calculated move helped Pakistan make a strong argument in its case for the extension of GST+ status from Ukraine. In the long-run, this proved beneficial for Pakistan.
In the sphere of economics, there is great room for collaboration between Pakistan and Ukraine and both states can work towards infusing dynamism in each other’s economy. Strong economic foundations provides the bedrock upon which developments in defence sector can be funded further. The two countries can cooperate in the field of agriculture, industry and services. Cutting-edge ventures can be undertaken in new fields and joint research undertaken to spur novel developments in the fields of artificial intelligence, quantum computing and space. In this regard, it helps that Ukraine has the 4th highest number of IT professionals and an extensive space program. It has launched six self-made satellites and developed 101 launch vehicles. It continues to further design spacecraft for export as well as domestic use.
A neo-liberal model of cooperation will ensure that there are relative gains and both countries benefit in a win-win situation. This can be done by exploring each other’s strong areas. In this regard, Pakistan’s strength is in its abundance of manpower and expertise in defence sector such as the development of fighter jets such as JF-17, tanks, and ordnance. Ukraine’s expertise lies in medium- to long-range aircraft.
Moreover, it has a strong heavy-industrial base in commercial and private vehicles. There are also opportunities for the two countries to undertake exchange visits of members of chambers of commerce and industry in order to gather a nuanced understanding of each other’s economies. These exchange visits can help in developing cooperation in respective fields. Moreover, the Pakistani diaspora in Ukraine can play a pivotal role in solidifying ties between the two countries.
Recent developments demonstrate that Pakistan and Ukraine are collaborating in the spheres of economy, military-technical, politics & diplomacy and exploring joint new ventures and avenues. The expertise of both the countries in respective fields can be pooled for collaborative projects, as stated above. This will pave the way for further opportunities in various domains.
Awarding of the contract for repair of IL-78 is a step in the right direction and an indication of enhanced cooperation in the military-technical sector in future as well. The Pakistani-Ukrainian relations are on an upward trajectory and with astute diplomacy and mutually beneficial agreements, will continue to flourish further.