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Russia and India Seal an Arms Deal while Leaked Report Exposes Pakistan-U.S. Secret Deal To Supply Ukraine with Ammunition

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A shadow arms race is fueling the Russia-Ukraine war under the radar.

In a leaked report, BBC Urdu exposes Pakistan’s secret $364 million arms contract with US companies that ultimately supplies Ukraine with ammunition, a brazen breach of Pakistan’s claim of neutrality.

In another dangerous move, Russia counters with its own pact with India that supplies them with portable missiles.

The war in Ukraine has illuminated the intricate web of international arms deals and defense relationships shaping the conflict. As Russia and Ukraine battle for supremacy after months of bloody stalemate, both sides are actively courting partners that can provide vital weapons and ammunition to gain an edge. 

The war has also revealed the complex factors that lead nations like India, Pakistan, South Korea, and others to cautiously engage in overt or covert defense trade to support either side of the war while attempting to avoid upsetting their balancing acts between Russia, the West, and their own interests. 

As the shocking revelations of secret deals echo worldwide, the secret arms trade hints at global risks if deals turn sour or are exposed, but also highlights the leverage Ukraine’s backers gain as suppliers like Pakistan become invested in a conflict whose consequences could rapidly spiral.

Russia has agreed to an arms deal with India to provide them with Igla-S portable anti-aircraft missiles. Alexander Mikheyev, head of Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, said: “We have already signed the corresponding document, and now, together with an Indian private company, we are organizing the production of Igla-S MANPADS in India.” 

The Igla-S is a man-portable air defense system designed to serve as a final line of defense against aerial threats in a layered air defense network. It specializes in attacking low-flying aircraft like helicopters, drones, and cruise missiles. 

The Igla-S can autonomously identify and engage visually detectable aircraft and helicopters of any type. It has advanced capabilities to detect cruise missiles and low-flying targets even against cluttered backgrounds and decoy flares.

It also features a larger warhead, proximity laser fuse for optimal timing of detonation, and enhanced precision. These lethality upgrades, along with more fragments and explosive material in the warhead, make the Igla-S a highly capable short-range air defense system suited for threats like drones.

This agreement comes after Russia indicated its intention to reach such a deal during the Aero India 2023 exhibition earlier this year. India already has some Igla-S systems in its military inventory after emergency procurement from Russia, but has been seeking a larger contract as part of its Very Short-Range Air Defense (VSHORAD) requirements. 

The deal enables India to expand its stocks of the Igla-S through local licensed production, underscoring deepening defense industry cooperation between Russia and India. Mikheyev also noted that Rosoboronexport is working with Indian public and private companies on joint production of other aviation weapons to integrate into India’s aircraft fleet.

This deal, announced by Mikheyev and reported by the Russian state news agency TASS on November 14th, represents Russia’s latest effort to arm and equip the Indian military through defense industry cooperation.

But Russia is not the only one making deals, according to a detailed report by BBC Urdu, Pakistan appears to have signed secretive arms deals that contradict its public stance of neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine war. 

The report reveals that “Pakistan signed a US$364-million arms sales contract with two private US companies last year. These arms are purportedly being sent to Ukraine for use in its conflict with Russia.”

Specifically, Pakistan entered into agreements with American firms “Global Military” and “Northrop Grumman” to provide 155mm ammunition. Quoting the US Federal Procurement Data System, BBC Urdu states that “these weapons were purchased from Pakistan. The contracts were signed in August 2022 and were explicitly connected to the acquisition of 155mm rounds.”

The BBC report further notes that “Global Military was given a US$232-million contract, and Northrop Grumman and other parties signed a US$131-million contract.

The United States and European allies have faced significant challenges in providing enough 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine over the past several months. This is due to difficulties in speeding up production to meet the heavy demand for the shells . 

Due to these supply shortfalls from domestic producers, the US has turned to Asian allies to help fill the gap. For example, South Korea signed an agreement in April to lend 155mm shells to the United States, which were then redirected to support Ukraine’s forces. 

Third-party munitions transfers like this South Korea deal have become vital workarounds as the US and Europe strain to overcome production bottlenecks and keep Ukraine well-stocked with large quantities of 155mm ammunition on the battlefield, now Pakistan seems to be on the list of suppliers for the US.

The BBC Urdu account aligns with an October 2022 EurAsian Times report revealing frequent UK Royal Air Force flights from Romania to Pakistan’s Nur Khan airbase since August 2022, likely ferrying the ammunition to Ukraine.

As the BBC report highlights, “a British military cargo plane from Nur Khan Air Base made five landings in Rawalpindi before making the supplies.”

In a previous statement that raises eyebrows at the contradiction of the events, Pakistan’s Foreign Office had firmly rejected any suggestion of arms sales to Ukraine, stating “Pakistan remained ‘strictly neutral’ in the conflict between the two nations and did not supply them with any such materials.” 

Yet if verified, these secretive deals compromise Pakistan’s professed neutrality and could strain relations with Russia.

There have been several instances where Pakistani-origin ammunition has been found in Ukraine. In March 2022, images circulated on social media showing Ukrainian forces firing 122mm Yarmuk rockets that were produced by Pakistan’s state-run Ordnance Factories.

The Yarmuk rockets, analogous to Soviet-designed 9M22U rockets with a 20.5km range, were photographed being loaded into BM-21 Grad launchers. While the images clearly show Pakistani munitions in use, Pakistan has not acknowledged providing any military aid to Ukraine. According to reports, the rockets likely reached Ukraine through third parties, as Ukraine and allies turned to diverse sources for artillery supplies.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied sending arms to Ukraine, despite earlier allegations it promised rockets and tanks in exchange for Western assistance. Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson rejected claims of defense supplies to Ukraine as inaccurate, reiterating Pakistan’s neutral stance in the conflict.

However, the documented presence of Pakistani-made Yarmuk shells on the battlefield challenges Pakistan’s statements of non-interference. 

Though the procurement route remains unclear, the imagery indicates Pakistan’s munitions have indirectly reached Ukrainian forces, putting Pakistan in an awkward position.

The Pakistani Foreign Office has vigorously dismissed and ridiculed any suggestion that it supplied arms to Ukraine, denouncing such allegations as false despite the imagery.

Experts have posited that Pakistan’s rockets likely reached Ukraine through indirect third-party transfers facilitated by the US and its allies. 

But Pakistan continues to publicly maintain that it has not provided any defense equipment to either side, sticking firmly to its neutral positioning amid the war. 

As the war in Ukraine continues, complex networks of overt and covert arms deals are coming to light. Russia is openly supplying India with advanced Igla-S anti-aircraft systems through joint production agreements, showcasing defense ties between the two. Meanwhile the US is making secret deals with Pakistan.

With Ukraine’s allies struggling to meet its vast demand for shells, third-party supplies are crucial, whether channeled from South Korea or potentially Pakistan. The revealed complexities of procurement underscore the advantages both sides seek through defense partnerships, even unlikely ones, to sustain the grinding conflict.

If backdoor deals through intermediaries are uncovered, they could strain international relations. As the advantage tilts back and forth in Ukraine, the international scramble to keep arms flowing could have widening political ramifications. But for now weapons dominate the calculus, no matter the source, as long as they bolster either side’s capacity to fight on.

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