Coming soon: Russian Su-35s to Pakistan and American F-35s to India?

(From the National Interest)

By Dave Majumdar

Russia seems to be eager to antagonize both friend and foe alike these days.

In a move that seems to be completely inexplicable, Russia is apparently negotiating to sell Pakistan advanced Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E fighters along with Mi-35 Hind-E attack helicopters. Perhaps more amazingly, the Russians don’t seem to grasp that their Indian allies are likely to react extremely negatively at the prospect of such a deal.

Russian Su-35

Russian Su-35

“I do not think that the contracts under discussion will cause jealousy on the part of any of the two sides,” Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told state-owned Russian media outlet Sputnik on Sept. 9.

Despite the fact that the two South Asian nations share linguistic, cultural, geographic and economic links—and are part of the same civilization—they have fought three full-scale wars over the past several decades. At the best of times, their relationship has been fraught with hostility and suspicion—and that probably won’t improve until the generation that lived through the 1947 partition of India passes on. As Australian defense analyst Brian Cloughley told Defense News: “The Indians would be extremely upset, to the point of a major diplomatic rift.”

An Edge for Pakistan?:

Acquisition of the Su-35 would probably give Pakistan a marginal edge in terms of capability over India’s two-seat Su-30MKI if it is bought in numbers, but the newer Flanker model only offers modest improvements over its predecessor. Most of those could likely be retrofitted to the Indian Air Force (IAF) Flanker fleet. In fact, there are indications that Russia and India are discussing modernizing the IAF Su-30 fleet.

How Would India Respond?:

However, Russia’s move to supply India’s archenemy with advanced weapons could lead to the nascent South Asian giant turning further towards the United States and Europe. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has already signaled his intention to purchase 36 Dassault Rafale multirole fighters off-the-shelf from France after the cancellation of the long-running Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) debacle. And there are some signs that a deal could be imminent.

US F-35

US F-35

If Russia starts to sell weapons to Pakistan, that could mean that France and the Eurofighter consortium will be in a far better position for when India inevitably issues another tender to replace its dwindling and increasingly decrepit fleet of antiquated Soviet-built MiG-21s and MiG-23s. Moreover, the prospect of Su-35s in Pakistani hands could prompt the Indians to act with a sense of urgency as they watch their perceived advantages erode away. Read more



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