Despite the fact that diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Belarus have been limited in the past, the two countries have decided to develop their cooperation on military and technical matters. According to a report in The Nation, representatives from the two countries explored areas for military cooperation at the 7th International Exhibition of Arms and Military Machinery (MILEX-2014), which is taking place in Minsk, Belarus. Pakistan’s Minister for Defense Production Rana Tanveer Hussain met with senior Belarusian military officials. Belarus under Alexander Lukashenko remains Europe’s last authoritarian dictatorship; the country maintains close ties with the Russian Federation. The news that the two countries will cooperate on military matters comes some days after Belarus announced that it would open an embassy in Pakistan.
The Belarusian defense industry is large considering the size of the country, and has suffered significantly since the collapse of the Soviet Union as demand for military products declined across the former Soviet space. Currently, the defense industry relies on limited contracts with Russia. It additionally pays some of the costs of maintaining Russian armed forces on its soil. Belarus is currently sanctioned by the United States and the European Union, in part for its willingness to do business with repressive regimes and pariah states. Under Lukashenko, the Belarusian defense industry has developed particular skill in maintaining and upgrading legacy Soviet-era equipment. Belarus has also historically been skilled in military radio technology.
Given that the Pakistani military uses a very limited set of Soviet-era and Russian hardware, military cooperation between the two countries will likely focus on newer projects. According to The Nation‘s report, both countries are interested in “establishing mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of defence production.” According to the same report, Pakistan has invited Belarusian Minister of Defense Yuri Zhdobin to the 8th International Defense Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS-2014), which will be held later this year in Karachi. The report also noted that Pakistan highlighted its indigenous advances in defense production, including the JF-17 fighter (developed with Chinese cooperation).