Worsening Trends in Global Arms Transfers

By Chandra Muzaffar  

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has in its 2011 Report highlighted trends in global arms transfers which any sane human being would describe as "worsening."

SIPRI shows that "the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons was 24 per cent higher in the period 2007-11 than in 2002-2006." The top supplier of arms during both periods was the United States of America. Its exports increased by 24 per cent in the latter period. The US accounted for 30 per cent of all arms exports between 2007 and 2011.

The US was followed by Russia whose exports increased by 12 per cent between 2002-2006 and 2007-2011. Russia accounted for 24 per cent of all exports. Germany, France and Britain were the other three big arms suppliers.

The top 5 suppliers accounted for 75 per cent of the total volume of all global arms exports. The 5 biggest arms importers in 2007-2011 were India, South Korea, Pakistan, China and Singapore in that order. India was also the top importer in 2002-2006. Asia as a whole was the biggest importer of arms in 2007-2011, accounting for 44 per cent of imports.

However, the largest arms deal for "at least two decades was Saudi Arabia's order for 84 new and 70 rebuilt F-15SG combat aircraft." The beneficiary of this purchase concluded in 2011 was the US.

What is the larger significance of these worsening trends in global arms transfers?

One, global security has not increased one iota as a result of increased arms transfers. Wars and armed conflicts continue unabated. The underlying causes of conflicts and tensions in West Asia and North Africa (WANA), the Korean Peninsula, East Asia, South Asia and parts of sub-Saharan Africa remain unresolved. If anything, escalating export and import of arms may even have exacerbated tensions between states within a region---- tensions arising from a relentless arms race between neighbours.

Two, increased arms transfers are happening at a time when the global economy is mired in deep crisis. It is a crisis that has caused massive unemployment in some parts of the world, compounded national debts, aggravated inflationary trends, increased food and fuel prices, and reduced growth rates worldwide. To focus upon buying and selling arms when economies are crumbling and collapsing, and millions of people are without jobs or are struggling to make ends meet, is utterly, despicably, immoral and unconscionable. Governments and elites everywhere, including those who reap huge profits from the arms industry, should be concentrating upon those economic activities that conduce towards life, dignity and justice---- not an enterprise that promotes death, violence and destruction.

Given this conjuncture between an increase in arms transfers, on the one hand, and a global economy in crisis, on the other, citizens the world over should persuade and pressure governments and elites to reduce and eventually eliminate the production and consumption of all major conventional weapons. It goes without saying that this cannot be done on a national or regional basis. It has to be a truly global endeavour.

Governments should come together and formulate a timetable for global disarmament. This is one of humankind's time-honoured, much cherished dreams---- a world free from all weapons of death and destruction. Translating it into reality we realise is a monumental challenge which goes beyond the cessation of the production and consumption of conventional weapons. But let the citizens of the world at least demand that those who rule in their name put disarmament on the global agenda as an urgent item that requires immediate attention.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST).

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2012 on page no. 16

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