Neighboring countries willing to purchase security from West
Increased arms imports into the Asian region are primarily due to the unstable security environment in the Middle East and concerns from China’s neighbors over its rise, analysts said, emphasizing this makes the region more volatile.
Last week, India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in New Delhi for the purchase of 36 Rafale jet fighters in flyaway condition for $8.82 billion from French company Dassault.
The jets can carry tactical nuclear warheads, and this means India’s nuclear deterrence capability will be greatly improved, Shenzhen Television reported.
“India also wants to purchase the Rafale technology from Dassault but France refused, meaning France has no intention to help India promote its military industrial system,” said Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is the largest arms importer in the world. India is rapidly expanding its military capabilities, spending an estimated $100 billion on new defense systems since Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014.
Many other countries with an advanced military industry are also competing for India’s market, such as Russia, the U.S. and Israel, SIPRI said.
Zhao said before this deal with France, India was also considering the U.S.-made F-16. “India picked French-made jet fighters because they are cheaper and have a nuclear deterrence capability.”
Including India, SIPRI’s list of the top 10 arms importers 2011-2015 has nine Asian or Asia-Pacific countries.
Meanwhile, among the top 10 arms exporters, eight were European countries. Most of the top arms sellers are NATO members, except China and Russia.
SIPRI says the U.S. is the biggest arms exporter, with 33 percent of global share, and it is the biggest arms seller to most importers in Asia, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, and South Korea.
Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Thursday that NATO members have a near monopoly on the global arms market, due to their advanced military technology and strong manufacturing capabilities, especially the U.S.
“The majority of Asian states don’t have a comprehensive and developed military industry, but they have good economic bases, so they are willing to purchase ‘security’ from the West rather than spending more time and money to develop their own systems,” Song said.
“There are two objective factors boosting arms deals in Asia: the chaos in the Middle East and fears over China’s rise,” he noted.
Hyping ‘China Threat’
According to the Shenzhen Television report, India will deploy its new French-made fighters in the disputed areas bordering Pakistan and China.
Many of China’s neighbors are also on the list of top 10 importers, such as Vietnam, South Korea and India.
“Due to the South China Sea dispute and the increasing power of the Chinese navy, countries like Vietnam and the Philippines are very concerned, but the U.S. is not helping China solve the problem peacefully,” Song said.
“The U.S. government and media are hyping the ‘China Threat Theory,’ trying to convince countries in Asia that China is on the offensive,” he said.
Hua Liming, former Chinese Ambassador to Iran (1991-1995) and the UAE (1995-1998), told the Global Times on Thursday that to a degree, the West doesn’t want to totally solve the Middle East problem, because limited and low-intensity conflicts can bring benefits to arms exporters.
“When I was ambassador to the UAE, I saw leaders from the UK and France frequently coming to peddle their arms,” Hua said.
“Both the U.S. and Russia are tired of the ongoing Syrian civil war but can’t make it stop,” Hua said, adding that the influence from arms companies is partly to blame.
This is also bad for the U.S. and Russia, because their war expenditure will keep increasing, Song noted.