Both arms procurement and build-up are used in negative connotations and are discouraged in international systems. But even than states build arms and if they cannot build them, they procure them. But, the question arises why states have to build-arms if these weapons are portraying negative image of a state or emptying its reserves. The reason to afore mentioned question can be many; one of them is security concerns and threat perception of a state. States from volatile regions with history of wars and conflicts with their neighboring states invest huge amounts on procurement and development of state of the art weaponry for their security.
In South Asia two historical arch rivals are involved in arms build-up. According to recent estimates India is world largest arms importer with share of 12% in the global arms import. On the other hand, according to recent estimates by SIPRI Pakistan is world 9th largest arms importer. Even though Pakistan’s security concerns largely arises from India but decrease in expenditure on arms import is witnessed.
Pakistan is a small country, engulfed in many internal and external threats and also has limited budget allocated for defense in comparison to India’s defense budget. Even though Pakistan is small state yet it has invested in very expensive and difficult to acquire nuclear technology to acquire invincible defense. So far, defense acquired on the all spectrums of conflicts has stopped war between Pakistan and India. However, with evolution and emergence of new threats, new technologies are in urgent need to be acquired by Pakistan. What is pertinent to mention here is that no state can acquire invincible defense without self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
Pakistan is not totally a beginner in the production of weaponry. In 1951 Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan inaugurated the Pakistan Ordinance Factory for building the self-sufficiency in the nation that did not have the single military unit to produce weaponry at the time of Independence in 1947.
Afterwards, in 1970, Pakistan defence production unit strived hard to maintain indigenization process in country despite international sanctions against Pakistan. In all this time indigenization was never totally stopped but few high end quality products are always imported.
The reason behind the import of jet fighter, submarines, ships, tanks and surveillance technology is the inadequate research and development, funds and access to raw materials. If emerging security concerns are analyzed properly one can identify few areas that are in dire need of self-sufficiency. To curb the cancer of terrorism that has damaged the society and economy of Pakistan, surveillance technology that includes drones and satellites must be built in Pakistan to monitor its western porous borders. Recently, Burraq (UAV) is made by Pakistan’s National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) and Air Force (PAF) to fulfill the growing security needs.
The Sea is another arena where Pakistan must build its own submarines and ships that must include SSBNs and SSNs. Moreover, to build such kind of ships and submarines, it is necessary to enhance the capabilities of existing ship yards and build new ship yards. At the moment Karachi Ship yard has the capacity 7881 tons ship lift and is producing state of the art navy vessels, tuggers and submarines (Augusta 90B class). But to build bigger submarines and ships with nuclear reactor Pakistan need to build ship yards with more sophisticated technology and capability of ship lift.
Importance of secure skies after incidents like 9/11 is not lost on any country. Pakistan’s Air force most treasured possession in jet fighter is J-F17 Thunder, which is state of the art technology that is now assembled in Pakistan and will also be exported to other states. But it is high time that new generation of fighter planes must be acquired by Pakistan to ensure its security.
Indigenization in defense production is necessary not only for saving foreign reserves but also job production, rise of income level and increase in industrial and trade activities. Moreover, it is necessary that government should take steps to ensure the participation of private sector in defense production. However, quality must not be compromised.
Though Pakistan is located in volatile region and has to invest great amount on weapons but through self-sufficiency in defense production it can convert its crisis situation into blessing and strengthen its economy.
*Ahyousha Khan is a “Research Associate” at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad