Concerns Over Arms Push to India

22 January 2002

CAAT are worried about the government sending out mixed messages over its policy to India and Pakistan. Tony Blair visited India at the start of the year on a peace-building mission.

UK policy actions seem to contradict the Prime Minister's rhetoric. Over the past two years - whilst the situation with Kashmir worsened - UK authorities licensed £122m and £17.5m of arms to India and Pakistan respectively. (Often for similar equipment, including combat helicopter components, aircraft radar and small arms.)

Had Mr Blair arrived in India six weeks later than his New Year peace mission, he would have been able to attend DEFEXPO 2002: an Indian government supported arms fair (19-22 February). Britain's Defence Manufacturers Association is organising a National Pavilion, "with funding support from Trade Partners UK available to British firms who participate". Trade Partners are a tax-funded government service, part of the Department for Trade and Industry, aiming to attract "high quality" foreign investment for UK companies.

The DMA committee organising the pavilion is made up of the government's Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) and fourteen companies including Agusta Westland, Vickers and Vosper Thornycroft - all of whom promote themselves vigorously back home as brands concerned with UK national security.

Richard Bingley of CAAT said: "It is difficult to see how arms exports to India and Pakistan, at this time of heightened tension, furthers UK security and foreign policy interests".

Moreover, four UK ministers are due to visit India in February, including Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and cabinet member, Margaret Beckett. It is expected that at least some ministerial time will be devoted to closing the purchase of 66 Hawk trainer jets from BAE Systems by the Indian Air Force.

Mr Bingley continued: "The government must be careful not to undermine its peace-building measures by sponsoring short-term fixes for British arms exporters. Such short-sightedness will only inflame tensions."

For more information on UK arms exports to India and Pakistan please contact CAAT on +44-(0)-20 7281 0297


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