Arms trade and strategic stability

Iqbal Khan

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released the data in its annual report, on March11, captioned ‘Trends in International Arms Transfers-2018’; for a five-year period (2014-2018). According to report, India has been among the top five arms importers in the world for decades. India was the world’s second-largest arms importer from 2014-18; it accounted for 9.5 per cent of the global total.

While for the period 2013-2017, India accounted for 13 per cent of global arms imports and was the world’s largest importer. Regarding tensions between Pakistan and India, a senior researcher with SIPRI has maintained that India’s growing demands for weapons is driven by its fear of Pakistan and China, but India “remains unable to produce weapons itself”. However, “China, by contrast, is becoming increasingly capable of producing its own weapons”.

India only notionally ceded top spot to Saudi Arabia owing to decrease between 2009-13 and 2014-18, partly due to delays in deliveries of arms produced under licence from foreign suppliers, such as combat aircraft ordered from Russia in 2001 and submarines ordered from France in 2008, the report stated.

These include S-400 air defence systems, four stealth frigates, AK-203 assault rifles, a second nuclear attack submarine on lease, and deals for Kamov-226T utility helicopters, Mi-17 helicopters and short-range air defence systems. India is seeking to diversify the sources of its arms imports, and in an effort in this regard, has inched closer to the US and its allies.

The relationship between US and India is growing into a strategic partnership against rising superpower China, evidenced by a sky-rocketing 557 per cent increase in arms sales between India and US over the last five years. Apart, India has bought air-launched cruise missiles from France, surface and submarine-launched cruise missiles from Russia, and loitering munitions, commonly known as suicide drones, from Israel. Israel is identified as the third major defence partner for the Indians, and the movement of arms from Tel Aviv to New Delhi has increased by 285 per cent between 2008–2012 and 2013–2017.

Conflict analysts have noted that despite heightened tensions along the border with arch-rival India, as well as internal conflicts, Pakistan has decreased its arms imports substantially over the past five years. Pakistan pledged $7 billion for its armed forces this fiscal year, and purchased 2.8 per cent of all weapons sold in the world between 2013-2017. During 2008-2012, Pakistan had imported 4.9 per cent of the total global arms imports. The report noted that despite the long-standing conflict between India and Pakistan, arms imports decreased for both countries in 2014-18 compared with 2009-13. Pakistan’s biggest source was China, from which 70 percent of arms were sourced, followed by the US at 8.9 percent and Russia at 6 percent.

China is the fifth biggest arms exporter in the world. Its weapons sales have increased by 38 per cent in the last five years. Large increases in arms supplies to Bangladesh and Algeria accounted for much of the growth in total Chinese arms exports in this period. Interestingly, China is also the fifth largest arms importer in the world. However, it has made a 19 per cent decrease in import of weapons since the 2008-2012 period. The bulk of Chinese purchases was from Russia, France and Ukraine.

The US was the top arms exporter in the world during 2013–2017. Its share of total arms exports globally rose from 30 to 34 per cent over the past five years, as it delivered major weapons to at least 98 states in the last five years. SIPRI has also ranked the American nation as the 14th largest importer of weaponry as well. The US imports most of its arms from its NATO allies Germany, France and Netherlands. States in the Middle East accounted for 49 per cent of US arms exports during this period, Saudi Arabia being the largest beneficiary with 18 per cent of total US arms exports.

The report has termed Russia as the second largest arms exporter in the world, despite the fact that export of major weapons by the country has decreased by 7.1 per cent over the past five years. In 2013–2017, Russia delivered major weapons to 47 states. A total of 58 per cent of Russia’s arms exports went to its top three recipients: India, China and Vietnam, which accounted for 35, 12 and 10 per cent, of the total exports respectively. Surprisingly, Russia is not on the list of the top forty global arms importers identified in the report.

Trends indicate that the flow of arms increased to Asia and the Middle East in the past five years, perhaps as a result of heightened tensions around new conflict zones, while there was a decrease in the flow to Africa, the Americas and Europe.

Jan Eliasson, Chair of the SIPRI Governing Board stated, “The increased flow of arms raises concerns over their impact on international peace and security…It stresses the need to improve and implement international mechanisms such as the Arms Trade Treaty.” Active conflict zone are sucking-in higher quantities of arms, while economically declining and relatively calmer countries and zones are cutting down its arms imports.

A typically out of sync case is that of India, besides huge domestic defence production complex, it is amassing all sorts of weapons from all over the World. It is essentially a case of over reach at the cost of well-being of a common Indian. Pakistan has taken a wise course, it is not competing with India, weapon by weapon, but is maintaining strategic equivalence due to its superior thought process and weapon employment strategies.

Iqbal.khan9999@yahoo.com

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