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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Some reflections on global arms flow

In March 2014, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published a very important report on the transfer of arms between the countries around the world. SIPRI's attempt to build a consolidated data set on the global arm transfer is unique and unprecedented as no other source had ever kept a centralized data on such arm transfers before.  The report gives some interesting insight about the trends in global arm transfer. For example, five main arm exporters of arms in the world during the years 2009-13 are USA (29 %), Russia (27 %), Germany (7 %), China (6 %) and France (5 %). These countries together entertain approximately three quarter of the arm's global import demand.

Main exporters
Percentage share in global arm exports
Source; Sipri

On the demand side, India (14 %) ranks first, followed by, China (5 %), Pakistan (5 %), UAE (4 %) and Saudia Arabia ( 4 %).  China and UAE shares among the total global arm imports have been reduced to 5 % and 4 % from the figures of 11 % and 6 % for the years 2004-08. On the other hand South Asia has been witnessing a rapid militarization. For example India and Pakistan's share of 14 % and 5 % increased from the figures of 7 % and 2 % for the years 2004-08. In statistical terms, this amounts to 100 percent increase for both countries in just a time span of less than a decade.

Main Importers
Percentage share in global Import of arms
Saudia Arabia
Source; Sipri

Asia and Oceania makes up almost 47 % of the global arm import. Almost of half of this demand comes from South Asia. These are, indeed, worrying trends for people of South Asia and world at large. Pakistan and India have remained each other's strategic enemy due to unresolved issues such as that of Kashmir, which is not likely to be resolved in the foreseeable future. These two countries were almost  on the brink of war six years back after militants from Pakistan carried out infamous Mumbai attacks. With such volatility in bilateral affairs and the rise in right wing politics on both sides, it will be naive to justify  increasing trend in the  acquisition of weaponry as a deterrent against a full scale war, because in case it does, and there is always probability of it, the outcome is likely to be more nightmarish.

United States exports are not overwhelming skewed towards some particular set of countries as in the case of countries like Russia, China, UK and Israel. 38 percent of Russia's arms export is eventually consumed by India whereas 47 percent of China's arms export ends up in arm depots of Pakistan. UK's 42 percent of arms export flows to Saudia Arabia whereas 33 and 13 percent of Israel's arms export ends up with India and Turkey respectively.

On the other hand 75, 64, 54, 60 and 44 percent of India, China, Pakistan, UAE and Saudia Arabia arms imports comes from Russia (India, China) , China, USA, UK respectively.

Main importers
Main providers
Russia (75 %)
Russia (64 %)
China  (54 %)
USA    (60 %)
Saudia Arabia
UK       (44 %)
Source; Sipri

This is a very brief summary of some the statistics on the global arm flows. Some preliminary conclusions are clearly discernible

1) South Asia (India and Pakistan) is the most rapidly militarizing zone in the world.

2) India and Pakistan have experienced the most substantial increase in demand for arms in past decade (to the tune of 100 percent)

3) While USA does not has any particular favorite, as measured from percentage share of the supply of weapons to the various recipients, well over a quarter of China and Russia's total exports flow to Pakistan and India respectively. China and Russia shares long standing ties with Pakistan and India respectively.

Arm flows are likely to have a considerable impact on the policy making of the recipient countries. Abundant literature in political sociology talks about the sources of revenues of a particular State having a direct bearing on the sort of policy making. For example, State which is financed by tax money of its citizen is likely to formulate policies relatively more responsive towards people's demands as compared to the States which raise money by generating rents through natural resources or external aid.

Arm flows is one peculiar type of dependency. Every State needs arms to defend itself because aggression is a constant threat in global political orders of States. States lacking technology, expertise and resources to make up their own weaponry are likely to stay dependent on the stronger States for the procurement of arms. And since most of these states such as India, Pakistan, Saudia Arabia are embroiled in regional conflicts, this is likely to reduce their capacity to have a bargaining edge on the flow of arms. The consequent relatively inelastic demand and the hegemony of stronger States are likely to influence the conditions associated with such arm flows. The weaker a particular State, less powerful is it likely to be able to set the conditions about arms flow.

It may also be true that some of the groups within recipient States may themselves benefit from the perpetuation of conflict at times. Conflict may serve as useful instrument to centralize resources and keep people obedient and timid. If true, this is likely to have a tremendous impact on people's political imagination. On the other hand, at international level, dependency on stronger States for arms and consequent affects on policies are further likely to deteriorate any  prospect for independent and regional efforts to resolve the regional conflicts. The stronger arm providing State's interest will always have a considerable affect in shaping the policies of the recipient countries..

The arms stays as a constant threat to the global peace. The only winning parties are the ones  in the recipient countries whose interest are best served by the perpetuation of conflict and the groups in the arms supplying States whose interests, on the other hand, are best served by exploiting the dependency of the recipient States on arms, in their own strategic interest.

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