Pakistan warns India against arms race in region

Dr Mohammad Faisal, Spokesperson for Foreign Office. (Photo courtesy: social media)
Updated 11 October 2018

Pakistan warns India against arms race in region

  • Follows New Delhi’s signing of $5bn with Russia to acquire missile system
  • Analysts say Islamabad and Beijing can manufacture weapons to counter S-400

ISLAMABAD: Nearly a week after India signed a massive defense deal with Russia, Pakistan has warned the world of an impending arms race in the neighborhood while accusing its archrival and nuclear neighbor of skewing the balance of power in the region. 

“We have always said that we don’t want to get ourselves involved in any arms race,” Dr Mohammad Faisal, Spokesperson for Foreign Office, said during his weekly briefing on Thursday. 

His comments were in response to a question about New Delhi’s recent $5 billion deal with Russia to acquire the S-400 air defense missile system that offers one of the most sophisticated surface-to-air capabilities in the world. The S-400 has a range of 400 kilometers and can shoot down up to 80 targets simultaneously, by launching two missiles at each target.

“The countries that are providing these weapons to India should be mindful that this will destabilize the balance of power in the region,” Faisal said, adding that Pakistan was fully prepared to defend itself and “India should not be under any illusion” about that. 

He said that Pakistan wanted to initiate a dialogue with New Delhi to resolve all outstanding issues and Prime Minister Imran Khan had also written a letter to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for this purpose. However, India turned down the offer after first accepting it. 

Lt Gen (r) Amjad Shoaib, a security analyst, told Arab News that India’s purchase of the S-400 air defense missile system from Russia would boost its defense capabilities and give it an edge over Pakistan’s defense system. “This system surely endangers not only the security of Pakistan but also other countries in the region, too,” he said. 

Shoaib said that India would get the possession of the air defense system from Russia after two years, adding that “we can utilize this period to come up with a more sophisticated technology to counter it”. 

He added that Pakistan was buying high-end armed drones from China to counter India’s defense capabilities. “China is also purchasing S-400 defense system from Russia … Pakistan and China both can study it and manufacture another indigenous sophisticated weapon of their own,” he said.

Onion farmers cry tears of joy after army installs frying plant in Balochistan

Updated 13 December 2018

Onion farmers cry tears of joy after army installs frying plant in Balochistan

  • Move to help increase shelf life and avoid wastage of the crop
  • More than 50,000 tons of the vegetable was produced in the Awaran district between 2017-18

KARACHI: There is a good reason to shed tears after chopping onions in Balochistan’s Awaran district.
In order to help farmers and exporters make the most of their produce, Pakistan’s Army installed a plant in the district to dry onions, thereby limiting the vegetable from going to waste. “We are happy with the installation of the plant since it will help union growers like us get better prices for our products,” Iqbal Salal, a farmer, said while talking to Arab News on Wednesday.
Salal added that the move was going to be financially beneficial, too, as “bad weather, lack of storage facilities, and low prices between May and July” had made the cultivation of the crop economically unfeasible.
Balochistan is the largest producer of onions after Sindh and contributes about 35 percent to the total yield of the vegetable in the country. Sindh, on the other hand, grows about 40 percent of the crop.
According to the agricultural department’s statistics, nearly 52,210 tons of onions were grown on 7,104 acres of the Awaran district between 2017-18.
“The onion frying plant in Awaran was initially conceived by the agricultural development in District Awaran,” a spokesperson of the Pakistan Army told Arab News, adding that the military — in collaboration with the locals from the area – worked toward installing the plant as a pilot project.
The plant was inaugurated by the Commander of the Southern Command in October and has the capability of processing and frying onions for a longer shelf life. The process can also reduce its volume by about ten times, thereby helping with its transportation.
“The groundbreaking ceremony of the plant took place on July 14,” the spokesperson said, adding that the plant was installed after taking cognizance of the problems and difficulties faced by the locals.
“The transportation of onions to major markets such as Quetta and Karachi was a cumbersome process whereas the production and transportation costs were very high. As a result, farmers did not get their desired profits,” he said.
The spokesperson said that the employment of laborers at the plant would also generate more job opportunities for the locals. “Now, locals will get more money since their transportation cost will significantly come down.”
According to the spokesperson, small farmers are expected to be the major beneficiaries of the plant as they will be able to sell their crop in Awaran instead of going to bigger markets.
Salal agrees, adding that farmers who used to cultivate onions on a nearly 10-acre farmland are now growing it on two to three acres due to the drought-like conditions in the province. “Although our area is best in onion production in the country, our yield has decreased manifold,” he noted, adding that low rates further discouraged the farmers from cultivating the crop. “A 100-kilogram bag which is sold from Rs5,000 to Rs6,000 during offseason is purchased from the growers in just Rs800 to Rs1000. When growers try to store onions for better prices, the vegetable perishes,” Salal said.
Waheed Ahmed, Patron-in-Chief of All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association, agrees with the army spokesperson that “the success of the pilot project may attract other notable investors to undertake similar ventures.”
Appreciating the installation of the plant, Ahmed said: “If such examples are set, many exporters would come forward to play their part in carrying out such initiatives.”
The fried product, Ahmed says, would not only help local farmers get good prices for their product but would also help the country increase its exports.
“We are competing with India in onion export and since India produces best quality onions, we must tap into the window of opportunity left by our neighboring state,” he said, suggesting: “We should also invest in better seeds for a better product to compete in the international market.”
One way to do this, he reasons, is by “conducting research for producing best quality onion” and investing in more frying plants.