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Guns Vs Butter?
Developing nations are as much into arms trade as developed nations

The whole argument over ‘Guns and Butter’ seems so very prominent when one ponders deeply on the defence budget and arms trade in the so-called Third World countries. Since the last one decade, most of the Third World countries are trying to meet their domestic defence demand at the home itself, though ‘trying’ is as good as playing to the hackneyed “there’s much a slip between the cup and the lip” cliche.

But still, the Third World continues boasting about its defence equipment manufacturers. For example is India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Founded in 1964, HAL today has 19 production units and nine research and design units in seven locations. Unlike other companies, HAL is surprisingly doing well when it comes to financial results. In 2007-08, HAL had a super 25% increase in sales volume, with revenues touching a staggering figure of $2.15 billion.

However, when it comes to the undisputed king of arms trade among developing countries, Israel wins hands down. Israel remains a dominant player in the international arms market, with around 75% of its weapons production meant for exports. Israel has recently overshadowed UK and became the world’s fourth largest arms exporter. Almost all Israeli defence companies feature in the top league, with companies like Elbit, Israel Military Industries, and Israel Aircraft Industries deserving special mention. Altogether, the gross worth of Israeli arms exports was nearly $4 billion. As on date, Israel exports close to 10% of the world’s security-related equipment.

While discussing arms exporters, it would be a crime – literally – not to forget one of Bush’s favourite protagonists of the ‘axis of evil’ fame – the South Koreans. The country’s annual arms exports is estimated to be anything above $1 billion; the country is even trying extremely hard to enter the league of top ten arms exporters. Conflicts zones like Africa and Latin America are its main target markets; reports mention that this country’s arms sales will reach $3 billion by 2012.
Having said that, if there is a country whose expertise is beyond question in defence equipment, it has to be Ukraine. Being one of the world’s top 10, it netted $750 million through arms exports in 2006. The main exporting market for this nation can be found near its border. China in 2006 purchased around 600 missiles from Ukraine; even US purchased 300 units of rockets and mobile launch systems. In the last five years, Ukraine has increased its arms exports by 6%. Collectively, Ukraine managed to gather $2.5 billion in last four years of arms sales.

Not only as an arms importer but even as arms exporter, China is swiftly becoming one of the world’s largest, most secretive and irresponsible arms traders. Walking on the lines of superpowers, this to-be-super power is injecting weapons within conflict zones. Chinese weapons have helped sustain numerous brutal conflicts in almost all conflict stricken zones like Sudan, Nepal, Myanmar and South Africa. China is reportedly manufacturing highly fatal war-weapons and space weapons, thanks to its technologically advanced manufacturing units like Norinco, AVIC, Chengdu Aircraft Industry, China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation to name just a few.

In the horde of becoming self sufficient in every sphere and in order to counter terror attack at one’s capacity, developing countries first tested out arms purchase, but subsequently, over time, plunged heavily and headlong into being arms traders themselves. Their competition is now not just confined to the brethren of developing countries, but also extends to the developed nations. The value of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations in 2007 was nearly $42.3 billion; an increase from $38.1 billion in 2006! But till the time more than a billion globally continue living below the poverty line and till the time similar numbers remain illiterate and living a destitute life, one wonders how well can this arms race be really justified...

By:- Sray Agarwal

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