Ukraine-Pakistan Relations

Author Name: Omer Aamir      17 Jun 2020     Global view

Pakistan and Ukraine established bilateral relations on 16th March 1992. According to Ukraine’s embassy in Pakistan, the relations are described as ‘dynamic, with collaborations taking place in political, legal, military-technical, economic and humanitarian domains’. There are multitude of opportunities for joint ventures between Pakistan and Ukraine. The range of possible collaboration goes from depths of sea to the extents of space.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in 2017 for joint production of tanks in Pakistan. In this regard, Al-Khalid Main Battle tanks are being upgraded with the help of Ukrainian expertise. Pakistan and Ukraine have been collaborating in various defence-related projects for a considerable duration now and therefore this MoU did not come out from the blue.

More recently, during International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) 2018, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence Production known as UkrObronProm entered into negotiations with Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence Production. Talks were undertaken to expand military-technical cooperation in the field of armoured construction, particularly logistical support, maintenance, repair and supply of equipment for modernization. In addition, agreements were planned for aircraft and naval equipment, ammunition and high precision anti-tank weaponry. In the same meeting, the Deputy Secretary of National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine also informed the Federal Minister for Defence Production of Pakistan about regional geo-political developments.

More recently, in 2019 Pakistan’s Air Chief also stated that repair of aircraft, training of Pakistani maintenance specialists and upgradation of PAF helicopters could possibly be contracted to Ukraine. The Ukrainian delegation at the time stated that the country was ready to provide the widest possible range of aircraft repair services to Pakistan.

According to defence-related news website Quwa, UkrOboronProm is working with Turkish Aerospace for upgradation of An-188. As Pakistan and Turkey are jointly collaborating on multiple projects, a tripartite agreement can be reached between the three countries for co-production and sale of an upgraded version of An-188, which Pakistan can itself later be interested in buying.

Recently, Ukraine won the tender for repair of IL-78 air-refueller. Speculations were also ripe regarding purchase of an upgraded version of An-70 as a long term successor to C-130 (with co-production rights to Pakistan Aeronautical Complex). In this regard, Ukraine can aid Pakistan in establishing wide-body aircraft manufacturing facility and help the country establish the technical capacity for production of An-70 (Medium Range transport aircraft) indigenously.

Analysts have also postulated that the two countries can work in collaboration and look for 3rd party markets, particularly in the defence sector. If Pakistan co-funds Ukrainian programs such as manufacturing of An-77 and An-188, it will get ownership equity and a share in manufacturing for Pakistani and Ukrainian use alike.

These development strengthen existing Ukrainian-Pakistani ties in the aviation industry and point towards a positive trajectory where future opportunities can be jointly taken advantage of. The result of such a cooperative venture will prove beneficial for the economic and diplomatic growth of both the countries.

In the political sphere, Pakistan voiced concerns that there should be a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Crimea and adopted a neutral stance. It stayed aloof from the developments in which Afghanistan and India adopted a stance. This well-calculated move helped Pakistan make a strong argument in its case for extension of GST+ status from Ukraine. In the long-run, this proved beneficial for Pakistan.

In the sphere of economics, there is great room for collaboration between Pakistan and Ukraine and both states can work towards infusing dynamism in each other’s economy. Strong economic foundations provides the bedrock upon which developments in defence sector can be funded further. The two countries can cooperate in the field of agriculture, industry and services. Cutting-edge ventures can be undertaken in new fields and joint research undertaken to spur novel developments in the fields of artificial intelligence, quantum computing and space. In this regard, it helps that Ukraine has the 4th highest number of IT professionals and an extensive space program. It has launched six self-made satellites and developed 101 launch vehicles. It continues to further design spacecraft for export as well as domestic use. A neo-liberal model of cooperation will ensure that there are relative gains and both countries benefit in a win-win situation. This can be done by exploring each other’s strong areas. In this regard, Pakistan’s strength is in its abundance of manpower and expertise in defence sector such as development of fighter jets such as JF-17, tanks and ordnance. Ukraine’s expertise lies in medium- to long- range aircraft. Moreover, it has a strong heavy-industrial base in commercial and private vehicles. There are also opportunities for the two countries to undertake exchange visits of members of chambers of commerce and industry in order to gather a nuanced understanding of each other’s economies. These exchange visits can help in developing cooperation in respective fields. Moreover, the Pakistani diaspora in Ukraine can play a pivotal role in solidifying ties between the two countries.

Recent developments demonstrate that Pakistan and Ukraine are collaborating in the spheres of economy, military-technical, politics & diplomacy and exploring joint new ventures and avenues. Expertise of both the countries in respective fields can be pooled for collaborative projects, as stated above. This will pave the way for further opportunities in various domains.

Awarding of contract for repair of IL-78 is a step in the right direction and an indication of enhanced cooperation in the military-technical sector in future as well. The Pakistani-Ukrainian relations are on an upward trajectory and with astute diplomacy and mutually beneficial agreements, will continue to flourish further.


-Omer Aamir is a Research Associate at the Center for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS). He has done his B.A LL.B (Hons) from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). He intends to further his studies in International Law. This article was first published in DND. He can be reached at

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