Middle East, India push up global arms trade to highest levels

London, Feb 20 (IANS) The global transfer of major weapons systems rose over the past five years to the highest volume since the end of the Cold War, according to an annual report on weapons sales released on Monday.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) in the report said the Middle East nearly doubled its arms imports and India’s share in the global imports went up to 13 per cent.

The report said that more weapons were delivered between 2012 and 2016 than during any other five-year period since 1990, the Guardian reported.

Saudi Arabia, which leads a military intervention in Yemen that has cost hundreds of civilian lives, was the world’s second largest importer after India, increasing its intake by 212 per cent, mainly from the US and Britain.

Asia was the main recipient region in the world as India dwarfed regional rivals, China and Pakistan, by accounting for 13 per cent of the global imports.

While India received most of its arms from Russia, Saudi Arabia relied heavily on US arms.

The US and Russia together supplied more than half of all exports. China, France and Germany were also among the top five exporters.

“With no regional arms control instruments in place, states in Asia continue to expand their arsenals,” said Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher at Sipri’s arms and military expenditure programme.

Vietnam, in particular, dramatically increased imports by 202 per cent, which puts it in the list of 10 largest importers.

“While China is increasingly able to substitute arms imports with indigenous products, India remains dependent on weapons technology from many willing suppliers, including Russia, the US, European states, Israel and South Korea,” Wezeman said.

Despite staggering figures in the Middle East, which includes a 245 per cent increase in the imports of arms by Qatar, Iran, which is under an arms embargo, received only 1.2 per cent of total arms transfers to the region, the report said.

In 2016, Iran took delivery of S-300 air defence missile systems from Russia in its first significant import of major weapons system since 2007.

China solidified its position as a top-tier supplier by increasing exports by 6.2 per cent compared to 3.8 per cent in the period between 2007 and 2011, while Germany decreased its exports by 36 per cent between the same period. Algeria was the largest importer in Africa.

The US’s main three customers were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

Saudi Arabia was particularly a lucrative market for the UK, which sold almost half of its total weapons to the monarchy, the report added.

–IANS

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