Thu, Jul 03, 2003 - Page 5 News List

UK arms sales to Indonesia rise as Jakarta kills rebels

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The UK government has approved a substantial rise in arms sales to Indonesia and India, despite guidelines stating it will not export weapons if they could be used for internal repression or fuel regional instability.

Only last week Indonesian commanders deployed Scorpion tanks in a campaign to crush separatists in the province of Aceh after earlier assurances that British equipment would not be used for internal repression.

More than 80 non-governmental organizations called last week for a global arms embargo on Indonesia after credible reports of systematic human rights violations by troops in Aceh.

The value of British arms cleared for export to Indonesia rose from ?2 million in 2000 to over ?40 million last year, a 20-fold increase. Weapons sales approved for India -- where ministers are still trying to clinch a ?1 billion deal for the sale of Hawk jets -- have doubled since 2001 and totalled more than ?110 million last year.

The increases are revealed in the government's latest annual report which show that British arms exporters appear to be shifting away from their traditional markets of Gulf states in the Middle East to new lucrative ones in Asia.

Export licences approved for Indonesia included components for military training aircraft, rocket launchers, tanks, and armored personnel carriers.

Licences were approved to sell to India components for anti-aircraft guns, electron beam guns, fast attack craft, frigates, military helicopters, and combat aircraft, as well as small arms ammunition. Though exports approved for Pakistan were much less, valued at ?15 million, they included components for air-to-air missiles, combat helicopters, frigates, and small arms ammunition.

In May, members of Parliament on four House of Commons committees raised concerns about British arms exports to India and Pakistan, questioning whether the government took "sufficiently into account the risk of regional instability on the sub-continent when making export licensing decisions."

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