Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, is visiting South Africa for dialogue with officials there on defense cooperation.
DefenceWeb reported that General Bajwa viewed a parade on January 28, 2019, where he met South African Lt. Gen. Lindile Yam. According to the report, the two discussed bilateral defense issues. In a statement, the South African military said, “The goodwill visit is aimed at enhancing bilateral relations between the two armies, sharing ideas pertaining to cutting-edge defence technology and best practices employed by their respective defence industries.”
For his part, General Bajwa emphasized, “South Africa has a good technological base we want to benefit from.” He noted that, despite geographical distance between Pakistan and South Africa, “our thinking and understanding of world affairs is quite similar.”
In March 2017, the two sides signed a general Memorandum of Understanding on defense cooperation. Pakistan may be interested in developing ties further by signing a new arms agreement with South Africa regarding artillery. The Pakistani Army has been known to be evaluating international options for the procurement of self-propelled howitzers in recent years, with Denel’s T5-52 155mm howitzer one potential option. DefenceWeb cited Lieutenant General Yam as saying “exploratory discussions” are ongoing for the purchase of artillery, while General Bajwa confirmed that dialogue was being held in that regard.
A new purchase of self-propelled artillery would bolster Pakistan’s deterrence against the Indian military. In November 2018, India formally inducted its first 155mm M777A2 self-propelled howitzers, which will provide “rapid deployment and extreme accuracy” for the Indian artillery forces, a BAE Systems statement said.
It is unclear how many howitzers Pakistan is interested in acquiring, but with Denel experiencing financial difficulties – causing delays in the delivery of new hardware to the South Africa military – a new export agreement with Pakistan would provide much-needed revenue. South Africa has recently held dialogue with Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar, over potential investment in Denel and other South African defense firms.
General Bajwa also highlighted that Pakistan could be a potential arms supplier for South Africa, saying, “Your businessmen can also benefit from what we produce in Pakistan. We also make good equipment like the Super Mushshak and JF-17 thunder aircraft. We have no restrictions or sanctions.”
The visit to South Africa follows a meeting in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, earlier in January between General Bajwa and the South African High Commissioner to Pakistan Mpendulo Jele. Few details were provided, but according to ISPR, “[d]uring the meeting, matters of mutual interest, regional security and Pak-South Africa relations came under discussion.”