US Sanctions and Pakistan’s Strategic Indisposition
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 23 Apr , 2024

On 19th April 2024, the United States imposed sanctions on three China based companies- Xi’an Longde Technology Development Company Limited, Tianjin Creative Source International Trade Co Ltd and Granpect Company Limited along with a Belarus based- Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant – for aiding Pakistan in its Ballistic missile program. This decisive reaction from the United States comes shortly after the US issued sanctions on Pakistan for trying to build systems for delivery of weapons of mass destruction last year.

The US imposed sanctions on several Chinese and Belarusian companies for aiding Pakistan’s ballistic missile program, including providing equipment like filament winding machines and missile testing equipment.

In October 2023, three Chinese companies—General Technology Limited, Beijing Luo Luo Technology Development Company Limited and Changzhou Utek Composite Company Limited were sanctioned for supplying missile production items to Pakistan. The companies were found to be supplying brazing materials, mandrels and other machinery for the production of solid‐propellant rocket motors, D‐glass glass fibre, quartz fabric, and high silica cloth.

The above-mentioned sanctions were implemented to cease the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the means of delivering them. The information provided by the US State Department with regards to its actions has stated the names of the sanctioned companies, their type and kind of involvement in boosting Pakistan’s ballistic program on its official government website.

Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (Belarus) mentioned in the sanctions, is a part of the Belarusian State Authority for Military Industry of the Republic of Belarus (a.k.a. SAMI or State Military Industrial Committee). SAMI cultivates and develops military and special hardware for the Belarus military. The company has been engaged in the production of special vehicle chassis for Pakistan’s long-range ballistic missile program. These are being used as launch support equipment for ballistic missiles by Pakistan’s National Development Complex (NDC).The NDC also oversees the development of Missile Technology Control Regime Category (MTCR) I ballistic missiles.

Xi’an Longde Technology Development Company Limited based in People’s Republic of China (PRC), has been confirmed to have supplied missile-related equipment, including a filament winding machine, to Pakistan’s long-range ballistic missile program.

Tianjin Creative Source International Trade Co Ltd (PRC), has been reported to have furnished missile-related equipment to Pakistan’s long-range ballistic missile program. Amongst these were the stir welding equipment (this according to assessments can be utilized to manufacture propellant tanks used in space launch vehicles), and a linear accelerator system (can be used in the inspection of solid rocket motors). According to the United States, Tianjin Creative’s procurements were possibly done for Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), which manufactures and develops Pakistan’s MTCR Category I ballistic missiles.

Granpect Company Limited (PRC) has operated with Pakistan’s SUPARCO to provide the required equipment for testing of large diameter rocket motors. Additionally, Granpect Co. Ltd. has also contributed to supplying equipment for testing large diameter rocket motors to Pakistan’s NDC.

Due to all the conducted operations and engagements between the Chinese and Belarussian companies and Pakistan, the United States considers all the assets and interests in property of the companies to be possible threats.

Pakistan is actively pursuing the development of its missile system despite economic challenges, relying on funding from international sources like the World Bank, IMF, Saudi Arabia, and China.

It is important to mention that Pakistan’s long- range missile system has been designed with the intention to target the locations on the Indian  territory.

Additionally, while Pakistan faces a drastically crestfallen economy, it continues its pursuit in developing its highly expensive programme of developing its missile system. At the moment, Islamabad is mostly dependent on the funds handed down by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and its allies such as Saudi Arabia and China.

In January 2024, Pakistan carried an exercise to test its various air defence systems. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media branch of Pakistan’s military, stated that they had test-fired the surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems,  namely “HIMADS,” “LOMADS,” “E-SHORAD,” and “SHORAD.” These in totality form Pakistan’s Comprehensive Layered Integrated Air Defence (CLIAD) system. This is the Pakistan military’s effort at creating a multi-layered ground-based air defence system (GBADS). CLIADS, became a game charger for their military as it enables the military for efficient distribution of SAM deployment and management from Corps level to Brigade level while not relying completely on just man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), such as the ANZA-series.

In other words, it can be comprehended that Pakistan is building its own stand-off range weapon (SOW) capability through artillery. The possibility of utilizing them unprovoked against India, Taiwan or the nations which its Iron brother China seems fit is a strong likelihood.

The looming threat can be foreseen from China utilizing the Pakistani missile program for its strategic interests.

In 1961, Pakistan sent its engineers to the United States to learn how to develop missiles.By 1962, Pakistan successfully tested its first rocket.

In 1989, the Pakistani Hatf missiles were tested. These were believed to had been reverse-engineered after the French rockets that the Pakistani and Chinese engineers had got their hands on. The Pressler sanction was imposed by Washington on Islamabad in October 1990. This prohibited military aid and transfers of military equipment or technology to Pakistan. Following the sanction, Pakistan secretly joined hands with North Korea and China to develop its missile program. Since then, it appears that Islamabad has only been growing and accumulating its arsenal despite the sanctions. Given the past history of Pakistan, its close diplomatic intimacy with China and its intentional cordiality with an unpredictable Iran, who has not only carried random strikes on Pakistani soil but also the strikes on US backed Israel in conflict against Hamas, it is expected for US to keep Pakistan in check.

Additionally, post the tit for tat retaliation earlier this year between Iran and Pakistan on the claimed terrorist bases on each other’s soil respectively, Pakistan and Iran are trying to stabilize their diplomatic relations.

There are concerns about the geopolitical implications of Pakistan’s missile program, particularly its close ties with China and potential implications for regional stability, including the possibility of extending conflicts like the Gaza conflict to the Indian subcontinent.

Amidst the neighbourly tensions between the two nations, Iran’s decision to carryout strikes against Israel, which was also met with a retaliatory strikes from Israel, does not bodewell for Pakistan, as it cannot have the Western allies miffed, especially when it hopes to curry favours from them and seek support for loans.

The political establishment in Pakistan has also been part of the convenient background, which the government uses to balance its approach between its US and Palestine supporting international policy. One such example is Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious political party which was seen participating in a rally against Israel and to show solidarity with Palestinian people in March 2024.

After Iran’s first unprecedented attack on Israel on 13thApril 2024, followed by Israeli retaliation on Iran, the Pakistan Foreign Office has toned down its attitude by calling for a restraint instead of pursuing action against Israel. The US has recently approved the Ukraine aid to be combined with funding for Israel and Taiwan, with a foreign assistance package amounting to $95 billion. The new Israeli military aid by US has also been confirmed. Additionally, the US vetoed the Palestinian request for full United Nations membership recently which has led to President Mahmoud  Abbas’s statement on how the Palestinian Authority will reconsider its bilateral ties with the U.S.

Pakistan has been favourable with regards to Palestine and has refused to acknowledge Israel as a sovereign nation and has also advocated for separate Palestinian state. In the past, Pakistan’s stance on Iran’s conflict with Israel has been coherent with Tehran.

However, given the American stand on Israel conflict, Pakistan seems to have subdued its vocal tenacity against Israel especially as it hopes to receive its US alms.

This has led to the possibility of extending the Gaza conflict to the Indian subcontinent, while putting Pakistan in an awkward spot with the US and a possible strike from Israel for showcasing its bravado in support of Hamas and Palestine. Given the rising tensions extenuating from the Gaza conflict and Pakistan’s inability to control its own economic crisis while extending its invitation to the Iranian PM to visit, it is no wonder that it has removed several doubts in minds of those seeking non proliferation of WMDs against humanity.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Aparna Rawal

is an Independent Researcher and Analyst specialing in Af/Pak region and Counter Terrorism.

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2 thoughts on “US Sanctions and Pakistan’s Strategic Indisposition

  1. Saudi Arabia, sitting above two continents, provides more than sea access for ships; it serves as an essential hub for international commerce routes. Here, maritime transport companies play a crucial role in maintaining the smooth flow of products across international borders, acting as more than just service providers.

  2. Pakistan is a past master at “diplomacy” and runs rings around India. Pakistan supplies weapons, bandages and morphine to Ukraine via RAF transport at Washington’s behest. Is sanctioned by US along with China and Belarus. Receives billions in weapons from the US etc. etc. We never know how much of this is smoke and mirrors created by the US to confuse countries like India into believing that the US is going against its own creatures such as Pakistan, Al Qaeda, Taliban and Islamic State.

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