Pakistan’s biennial Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) has come to a successful close. Although the event was held amid tight security in the coastal city of Karachi, the Pakistani defence industry has little to fear.

As demonstrated during the week-long event, which took place between 7 and 11 November, the Pakistani defence industry is robust and vibrant and willing to export its products, from small arms to jet fighters, after satisfying local demand.

IDEAS gives credibility to Pakistan’s once humble defence capabilities. It allows all of Pakistan’s defence manufactures to get together, showcase their achievements with foreign companies and discuss foreign collaboration and sales.

IDEAS is not focused on attracting export orders – Pakistan does not have big targets to achieve. Domestic needs have to be met first and only surplus effort is dedicated to exports. The main focus on exports is to the Muslim world and Pakistan’s neighbours.

The Ministry of Defence Production produces a wide variety of equipment, from small arms to tanks and UAVs. Local production brings the cost of equipment down and has no strings attached – something Pakistan can appreciate following the sanctions imposed after its 1998 nuclear testing.

Major General Tahir Ashraf Khan, Director General, Defence Export Promotion Organization (DEPO), during the closing ceremony on Sunday said that IDEAS 2012 was an “extremely successful” event that showcased Pakistan’s defence capabilities. He said that in addition to showcasing what the Pakistani defence industry had to offer, IDEAS was also a platform for intellectual discussion through the Seminar and Sideline Conferences. “IDEAS afforded the ideal forum for the exchange of defence and security ideas.”

IDEAS was a chance to explore cooperation and cemented relations between Pakistan and its friends from all over the region, Khan said. “IDEAS lived up to its motto of arms for peace.”

The DEPO was set up by the Ministry of Defence Production to promote Pakistan’s military hardware around the world.

Sardar Bahadur Khan Sihar, the Minister for Defence Production, said Pakistan was still considered to be a hub for defence exhibitions and a hub for the world to showcase defence products “under secure and peaceful circumstances.” IDEAS 2012 was held amid very tight security and passed off without event.

In total, 82 foreign delegations and 56 foreign countries participated in IDEAS 2012. defnceWeb was one of the media partners and proud to cover this exciting and important event.

Pakistan’s defence industry has many parallels with South Africa’s. It started out primarily with Chinese assistance and is becoming more and more independent. It produces everything from small arms ammunition to jet fighters and tanks.

South Africa’s defence industry in the 1970s and 1980s was driven largely by the need to supply the South African Defence Force following the imposition of an arms embargo in 1977. Israel provided much assistance to the country’s defence companies.

South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s and Pakistan today are similar in the defence field in that both defence industries were/are driven by operation needs – for South Africa this was the Border War and internal security operations; for Pakistan it is the conflict on the border with Afghanistan and internal security.

South Africa’s defence industry grew to be one of the biggest and strongest on the African continent and despite downsizing in the 1990s, it remains a formidable force, but is now focused on exports rather than domestic production. Similarly, Pakistan’s defence industry is geared towards meeting local needs but is offering products for export using excess capacity.

Pic: Michelle Pillay, defenceWeb’s Senior Account Manager, greeting Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at IDEAS 2012.