Thursday, September 29, 2016

Russia’s New Approach to Pakistan: All About Business

Russia’s New Approach to Pakistan: All About Arms Sales

Recently, Russia initiated its first ever joint military exercise with Pakistan. A few months earlier, in a first, Russia agreed to sell Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan. Numerous reports also suggest that Pakistan is reportedly in talks with Russia for the purchase of Su-35 combat aircraft. The sale of defense equipment to and military exercises with Pakistan indicate a significant shift in Russian foreign policy.
To state that Russia and Pakistan were Cold War enemies is an understatement. Approximately 14,000 Soviet soldiers were killed and more than 35,000 were wounded in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Many of these causalities were the consequence of mujahideen forces that received significant support from Pakistan and the United States. Even after the end of the Cold War, Pakistan was an important U.S. ally. As a consequence, the defense relationship between Russia and Pakistan was very minimal. That seems to be changing now.
The perception that evolving India-U.S. defense relationship, at the expense of India-Russia defense trade, may have contributed to the shifts in Russian policy toward Pakistan is erroneous. Contrary to popular opinion, India has spent more money on importing Russian military equipment in the recent past. Calculations based ondata from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show that from 1994-2004 India purchased approximately $11.43 billion worth of defense equipment from Russia. After the India-U.S. nuclear agreement in 2005 until 2014, arms exports from Russia to India amounted to $20.70 billion. From 1999 to 2003, India received about 23 percent of Russian defense exports, which increased to 24 percent in 2005-2009 and to 39 percent in 2011-2015. In terms of both absolute numbers and as a percentage of Russian exports, India has procured more from Russia in the last ten years than the preceding period. Higher rates of economic growth and growing security concerns prompted India to diversify its defense acquisitions from various countries including the United States. However, such diversification did not happen at the expense of India-Russia defense trade.
The assessment that the shifts in Indian foreign policy caused the changes in Russian approach toward Pakistan is also based on the assumption that Russia always factored India’s security concerns into its defense trade. An examination of the SIPRI data does not bear out this conjecture. For instance, the figure below clearly demonstrates that for a majority of years during 1992-2006, Russia exported more arms to China than to India in terms of value. Only since 2007 has India consistently overtaken China.
figure 1
The Russian sale of defense equipment happened in spite of a clear understanding that China and India have a border dispute. The rapid decline in China-Russia defense trade after 2006 is a consequence of significant enhancement in the domestic capacities of China’s defense industry, not a conscious strategic choice by Moscow. Further, it should be noted that Russia continues to sell critical defense equipment to China. For instance, Russia has agreed to sell 24 Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft to China. More recently, news agencies have reported that the development of the Chinese fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter may have been possible only with substantial Russian assistance. Clearly Russia and China have been collaborating very closely on defense and security issues. Such mutually profitable defense cooperation between Russia and China continues in spite of anxiety in India about growing power asymmetry in favor of China.
Similar rational calculations, rather than a sense of hurt over India’s policy, are guiding Russian policy toward Pakistan. Energy resources and defense equipment constitute critical components in Russian exports. Oil prices, which touched about $140 per barrel in 2008, are now hovering around $45 per barrel. This dramatic fall in oil prices generated stress on Russian exports. On the defense exports front, there are long term challenges. Along with India, important destination countries for Russian arms exports include China, Algeria, Vietnam, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Iran, Syria, Myanmar, and Egypt. Many of these countries are witnessing shifts in their domestic politics, and some are altering their external postures.
During 1999-2003, China received 44 percent of Russian defense exports, which declined to 35 percent in2005-2009 and reduced further to 11 percent during 2011-2015. China, which was a significant recipient of Russian military equipment, has built domestic defense manufacturing capacities and has now emerged as the third largest defense exporter in the world.
Meanwhile, Vietnam’s relations with the United States have witnessed dramatic improvements in the recent past. Washington lifted the embargo on the sale of lethal military equipment to Vietnam during President Barack Obama’s visit to Hanoi this year. Vietnam will be looking to purchase high-end defense equipment from the United States in near future. Similarly, with the U.S. completely lifting sanctions, Myanmar will be looking for diversified military relationships with Western countries.
Venezuela’s economic collapse has triggered a humanitarian crisis due to severe food shortages. Given the scale of the crisis, it is doubtful if Venezuela will purchase defense equipment with the same vigor as it used to do in the second half of the last decade. Syria is experiencing a civil war and Russia had to step in with its military to support a friendly regime in Damascus. The intervention in Syria also served as an advertisement for Russia weapon-systems. However, Syria is still some distance away from genuinely purchasing Russian military hardware in large numbers. In Egypt, Russia has to compete not only with the United States but also with the other European powers such as France. Similarly, in Iran, which was under sanctions till recently, Russia will have to contend with the enthusiasm that China has been displaying.
Not surprisingly, given these factors, Russian arms exports have started to show a downward trend since 2011.
figure 2
To stem further decline, Russia is working its way back into old markets, such as Iraq, as well as expanding into new markets and sees Pakistan as a lucrative prospective client. Pakistan is the seventh largest importer of defense equipment in the world with China and the United States as its leading suppliers. The ecosystem to sustain a domestic defense industry is still in its infancy in Pakistan and its relations with the United States in the recent past have been experiencing some strain. Therefore, there seems to be a growing convergence between Pakistan’s need to diversify its military procurement and Russia’s need to find new defense markets. It is this convergence that has prompted the shift in Russian policy toward Pakistan.
In doing so, Russia is taking a calculated risk that India will not cancel existing defense contracts in large numbers as retaliation for Russia’s new policy toward Pakistan. This bet is based on three assumptions. One, decades of defense purchases in large quantities have ensured that India will be dependent on the Russian defense industry for spares and maintenance for a considerable length of time. Two, since India is not a member of the United Nations Security Council, it will hesitate to antagonize a veto power that had come to its rescue on earlier occasions. The mere threat of censure on international platforms for alleged violation of human rights may compel India to reach out to Russia. Third, Moscow will continue to offer the sale of high-tech strategic defense equipment, which the United States and others may be reluctant to part with.
Given these developments, India need not feel guilty about failing to respond to the challenges confronting the Russian defense trade due to shifts in procurement patterns of countries such as China and others – that is neither the function of India nor should it be the objective. Instead of indulging in unwarranted self-flagellation, it would be prudent for India to focus on using trilateral and multilateral frameworks to create financial constraints for Pakistan’s defense imports. More importantly, a quick progress on strengthening domestic defense manufacturing is an urgent necessity.
Sanjay Pulipaka works as a Senior Consultant with the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), New Delhi. The views expressed here are personal.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The most pampered pets in the world? Two rabbits live life of luxury in a £10,000 HUTCH

Decked out in pinewood and stainless steel and lit with LED spotlights, this young couple’s home is the ultimate in stylish luxury.

Each night the pair hit the hay safe in the knowledge that they have heating to keep them warm, automatic shutters to shield them from bad weather and security cameras to watch over them.

In fact, many humans wouldn’t mind the creature comforts that rabbits Hunnie and Runnie enjoy in their spacious £10,000 residence. 

Pampered: Many humans wouldn't mind the creature comforts that rabbits Hunnie (pictured right) and Runnie enjoy in their spacious £10,000 residence

Pampered pets: Jason and Mairi Batterbee built a £10,000 hutch for their rabbits Hunnie and Runnie

Remote control: Jason Batterbee keeps a close eye on his prized pets with mobile-phone operated controls and infrared security cameras

The two-storey log cabin was built by electrician Jason Batterbee – who lives in the neighbouring bungalow with wife Mairi, 37.

Even when the couple are on holiday, they can check on their pets back in Dersingham, Norfolk, by viewing the camera feeds on a laptop and operating the hutch’s controls via mobile phone.

Each time they send a command, they receive an automatic text message to assure them it’s been carried out.

However, technology hasn’t yet come up with a solution for feeding time – which is taken over by friends when the couple go away.

Mr Batterbee, 41, said: ‘It took a lot of time and effort but if you think what people spend on their children this is nothing in comparison.

‘They could be considered the most pampered pets in the world but they are worth it.

‘The cameras even have an infra-red facility so we can check on them after dark.’

The custom-built hutch weighs a ton and is 7ft 6in wide and 4ft high.

It also boasts a ceiling fan to keep the rabbits cool on warm days beneath a roof covered with felt and shingle, and is connected to a 12 volt battery power supply.

Plush: The huge air-conditioned £10,000 rabbit cage is one any house bunny would be envious of

Fancy fixtures and fittings: Not only does the hutch have infrared security cameras for night monitoring, it also has pine shelves and stainless steel rails

Constant feed: Mr Batterbee is able to watch the camera images on his laptop computer

Two-tiered: Hunnie the rabbit negotiates the ramp up to the first floor of her luxury home

The large hutch is equally impressive at night, thanks to exterior and interior light fixtures

Lookout: Mr Batterbee keeps an eye on his pets from the comfort of his own living room thanks to an in-built hutch CCTV system