Pakistan has been able to substitute imported defence equipment worth $1.5 billion per year, with indigenously produced equipment. If we have to have arms, why not have them produced domestically, and keep the money here, rather then importing them, and risking incurring foreign debt. The question is, is our local industry as good? It may well be. We have been playing a game of survival since 1947. It is about time that the local industry took note of this, and made some economic profit. With the horror or terrorism and wars we have been plagued with since our inception, the development of an arms industry is a natural outcome. The military takes a lion’s share of our budget after all.

The drawback as of now is that the local industry has not yet secured a place in the international market, though Nigeria has shown some interest in buying JF-17 Thunder jets. Pakistan has already supplied arms to Sri Lanka and tanks of Bangladesh in the past so there is a potential market. Again, quality is a major issue, and for this to actually take off there has to be a lot more investment into research and development such that these arms cannot be copied and are also not seen as cheap copies.

There are many questions to ask yet. Is this the proper use of our money and skills? Would it not be better for more schools to be built and more money to be funnelled into infrastructure development? Money flows towards wants, not needs. Defence production means employment and investment in technology. The argument for arms production has always been that technology spills over into linked industries. These are called dual-use technologies that can be used in the manufacture of both defence and commercial products, such as soldering, process control, and computer-aided design. However, research suggests that the development of military technologies unequivocally diverts resources from civilian innovation. Military design is often very single-minded in its goal, and technologies are developed without looking at alternatives, or exploring cost minimisation. One of the biggest examples is of US nuclear reactors developed by the US Navy, without exploring alternative designs and without competitive mechanisms that have led to the failure of the industry. Extreme design sophistication and strong centralisation of control over production are key characteristics of military-oriented technological development. Its very high costs, however, limit the applicability of its results to civilian industry.