The arms trade has expanded by more than 20 percent worldwide in the past five years, with the Middle East and Asian countries accounting for most of the increase, figures released yesterday by the authoritative Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showed.
The US was by far the largest arms supplier, accounting for 31 percent of global weapons exports over the past five years, with over a third going to the Middle East. The US also supplied 40 percent of Pakistan’s major conventional weapons systems.
The five biggest suppliers of conventional arms were the US, Russia, Germany, France and the UK. China was the biggest recipient, followed by India, though China has recently cut its imports dramatically as it builds up its own arms industry, SIPRI said.
Arms sales to Middle Eastern countries rose by 38 percent, with their purchases including more than 200 US combat aircraft and more than 5,000 guided bombs. Britain’s biggest markets for its arms were the US and India, which is receiving 66 Hawk-100 trainer aircraft and 20 Jaguar-S fighter aircraft from the UK. Delivery of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft to Saudi Arabia is scheduled to begin this year, SIPRI said.
UK government figures show that in the last quarter of last year, £1.4 million (US$2 million) in arms exports to Sri Lanka, mainly components for communications equipment, were approved. This compares with less than £1 million of UK arms exports to the country for the whole of 2007.
“When the world needs co-operative solutions to global problems, the thriving international arms market points to a squandering of resources which the international community can ill afford,” said Paul Holtom, head of SIPRI’s arms transfer program.