IDEAS 2000 A Success Story

By Ikram Sehgal

For me personally, IDEAS 2000 was a desire come true. For the first time, in full public view, was the fact that Pakistan has an inherent capability to indigenously manufacture weapons and equipment of excellent quality. Arm-chair strategists of Karachi’s elite clubs have often confidently opined that Pakistan could not sustain even a week of war, for that psychological reason alone it was important for us to put the military wares we manufacture on public display.

Notwithstanding our nuclear potential we have quite a depth in conventional weapons (and ammunition thereof) manufacture. Moreover it was an eye-opener and concept that an exhibition of this size could be organised at all in Pakistan. A lot of meticulous planning went into the exercise. One anticipates a flood of outside exhibitors next year but to get 71 foreign enterprises to take part in this first-time show is some achievement, one must also commend the 63 local entities that participated. The participation of Muslim countries was impressive but the crown jewel was the presence of a large number of Chinese manufacturers some of whom are already working in collaboration with our manufacturers. Since the 1965 war we know only some countries will not succumb to sanctions against us and China is paramount among such nations, Turkey following a close second. If we can further develop mutual arrangements of manufacture, export/import with China, Turkey, Malaysia etc we will virtually have no need, except in some very hi-tech items from other countries. We can compromise somewhat on sophistication but we do need to keep our supply lines open in case of war. Sophistication will be of no use when the blockade is on and we really need replenishment. From China we had CATIC, CEIEC, NORINCO and CSTC, while Thomson, Sagem, Noricum, DCN International, Sully and Alcatel represented France. Parsan, Aselsan and MKEK came from Tuesday while Kazan Helicopters and Rosterval represented Russia. Progress and Interlink came from Ukraine, Romania had stalls from Romenpo, Romtechnica, Rom Arm, Aerofina, Arsenlal Armatec, Dager, Stimpex and Uzinexport.

One of the highlights of IDEAS 2000 was the International Defence Conference held simultaneously with the exhibition on its second and third days. This two-day conference, presented a unique international outlook based on the theme “Arms for Peace”. Strategic, defence, operational and tactical issues were discussed in light of the geopolitical perspectives. Eminent speakers from throughout the world provided a comprehensive view on the confluence of procurement behavior and influence of technology on development of defence equipment. The specially designed plenary sessions and workshops allowed maximum interaction between the speakers and participants. Technology took up the first day of the conference. Eminent scientists, physicists and analysts, from organizations like National Development Complex (NDC) and Dr. A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), presented their technology achievements. Defence Production was the topic the next day in the light of themes like Geopolitical Issues, Business and Technology.

Foreign speakers included Chewing Hongbo (China Shipbuilding Trading Cooperation Ltd) while presentations were made on ‘NORINCO in the near Century” by Sui Ping (Director, NORINCO) and “Turkey’s Defence Industries” by Hasan Basoglu. On Day 2, David Markov and Andrew Hull of the US “Institute of Defence Analysis” spoke on “The Changing nature of the International Arms Market,” Mr David Hew of Asici Pacific Countertrade spoke on “Countertrade and Offset in the Defence Industry”. Among the Pakistani speakers were: (on Technology) Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum Chairman POF, (on Geopolitical issues) Dr Shireen Mazari, DG Institute of Strategic Studies, Dr Samar Mubarakmand, DG NDC, etc.

Among the Pakistani defence material on display were the six industrial units of Heavy Industries Taxila, including the two Tank Rebuild Factories (T and H series), APC, Tank and Gun Manufacturing Factories, as well as DESCON, the Support and Component Manufacture group. By upgrading Chinese T-59 and equipping it with a 125 mm smooth bore gun and a 700 HP engine we have a fleet of AL-ZARRAR tanks. The development of Al-KHALID started in 1990 in the factory that previously produced T-69 and T-85 tanks. Six prototypes have successfully completed test and trials, the 125 mm smooth bore gun on AL-KHALID has been indigenously manufactured within the factory. As regards Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), other than USA, Belgium and Turkey, Pakistan is the only country to manufacture APCs (since 1992), re-equipping the armoured infantry component of the Pakistan Army. NDC showed the laser range-finders, fuses, antennas, Unarmed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) it manufactures while AQ Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) showed its shoulder-fired ground-to-air ANZA missile series, the anti-tank missile Baktar Shikan, etc. KAMRA’s PAF Aeronautical Complex displayed its Mashak trainer and upgrading of Mirages, while POF Wah which has been taking part in international defence exhibitions abroad displayed its vast array of small arms, ammunitions, explosives, etc.

Other than the static display was the mobility demonstration of KHALID and ZARRAR tanks, APCs, etc next to the exhibition hall. The versatility of the equipment and its handling was very much of interest, the armoured vehicles showed a dexterity that spoke very well of the power-to-weight ratio. The highlight was the firepower demonstration at Somiani Beach which included aerobatics, air-to-ground, ground-to-ground and ground-to-air fire display. Kamra’s “Super Mashshak” trainer aircraft and the China-Pakistan Joint Venture Karakoram-8 (K-8) aircraft performed acrobatics. There was a firing demonstration by AL-ZARRAR and T-85 tanks as well as a demonstration of the Trailer Anti-mine (TAM) exploding two anti-tank mines. Firing of the ANZA Shoulder-firing ground-to-air and Baktar Shikan ground-to-ground missile was displayed. Four Chinese F-7 aircraft did a strafing run with 30 mm guns followed by two Mirage aircraft dropping cluster bombs with variable fuses. It was followed by three Mirages delivering 500 LBs bombs. The climax came when two F-16s delivered MK 24 bombs, followed by another 3 F-16s from a different angle completing the destruction of the target.

There is no doubt that IDEAS 2000 was a huge success, that it was held in Karachi was the icing on the cake. One must commend the organisers for holding this first event almost flawlessly and thus achieving a milestone of sorts. It was the Chief Executive’s personal brainchild and his presence almost throughout the event put his full weight behind making IDEAS 2000 a success story. The fundamental lesson one drives from such an exercise is that we are capable of being independent for most of our defence needs but for indigenous manufacture the public sector alone cannot carry this forward, a meaningful input has to be made by the private sector.