WASHINGTON - Arms merchants from
industrialized nations are increasingly finding
Asia, which has replaced the Near East as the
world's top conventional-weapons market, the place
to go, according to a new report by the
Congressional Research Service (CRS).
by purchases by China and India, the world's most
populous region accounted for nearly 50% of the
total value of all new arms-transfer agreements
with developing nations from 2001 through 2004,
according to the report. India led the rankings in
signing US$5.7 billion in new
arms deals that year, according to the report, the
latest in an annual series.
It also found
the United States and Russia continue to dominate
all other arms suppliers by a significant margin
in selling to developing countries.
Russian companies last year signed agreements
worth almost $7 billion and $6 billion,
respectively, in conventional weapons for
developing countries. Their combined total
accounted for nearly 60% of the $21.8 billion in
all such sales to developing countries for 2004.
Britain ranked third in the value of new
arms agreements in 2004, while Israel made its
first appearance in the top five of the
arms-selling list, with sales worth $1.2 billion
for the year. The big advance by Israel was due to
a one-off deal for India's purchase of an airborne
radar system, called "Phalcon".
grown steadily as an arms supplier in recent
years, but has promised Washington that it would
stop selling military and dual-use high-technology
equipment to China, which has been a lucrative
market for the Israelis over the past decade.
In actual arms deliveries for 2004, the US
dominated the market with nearly $18.6 billion
worth of transfers - or 53.4% of all deliveries to
developing countries - far ahead of Russia, the
number two supplier, with $4.6 billion in
deliveries, or France, which made $4.4 billion
worth of arms transfers.
"Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing
Nations, 1997-2004", is produced each year by CRS
expert Richard Grimmett and widely considered to
be one of the most authoritative sources on the
conventional arms trade because it's based on
classified information as well as public data.
One of its major findings is that the
nearly $22 billion in new arms agreements signed
between developed and developing countries last
year marks a sharp increase over the previous
year, when the total came to $15.1 billion. Last
year's sales were indeed the highest since 2000,
according to the report. Actual arms deliveries
during the year were also the highest since 2000.
Conventional arms sales to developing
countries have generally accounted for between 55%
and 72% of all arms globally. For the period
2001-2004, according to the report, developing
countries received 57.3% of all arms transfers.
During the same period, they accounted for about
63.2% of the value of all actual arms deliveries.
While the Near East has historically been
the largest arms market in the developing world -
accounting for 49.2% of the value of all
developing-country arms agreements in 1997-2000 -
Asia took its place in 2001-2004, accounting for
some $35 billion in new arms during the period,
according to the report.
The change is
due, in part, to the leveling off of major arms
purchases by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states in
the aftermath of the first Gulf War in the early
Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia ranked
second behind India among developing-country
recipients in 2004, with $2.9 billion worth of new
agreements, while Egypt, Oman and Israel ranked
fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, behind
China, the number three buyer, with $2.2 billion
in new sales agreements.
eight-year period 1997-2004, the report found that
India was the leader, with $15.7 billion worth of
new deals, followed by China ($15.3 billion), the
United Arab Emirates ($15 billion), Egypt ($12.8
billion), Saudi Arabia, ($10.5 billion), Israel
($9.8 billion) and South Korea ($8.2 billion).
But that statistic hid the emergence of
China as a major arms buyer over the past three
years. Ranked number seven in the 1997-2000
period, when the UAE and India led the lists,
China jumped to the top spot in 2001-2004, buying
$10.4 billion worth of weaponry, most of it from
Russia, which has been India's most important
supplier as well.
Indeed, Russia's share
of Asia's arms market is more than twice that of
the US and appears to be growing. While Washington
was the supplier in nearly two-thirds of all new
arms agreements in the Near East in 2001-2004, it
accounted for only about 21% of the Asia market in
the same period.
Russia, on the other
hand, sold 48.1% of all conventional arms sold to
Asian clients in 2001-2004, up from 37% in
Grimmett noted in his report
that Russia has made "important efforts, in recent
years, to provide more flexible and creative
financing and payment options for prospective arms
clients", including licensed production agreements
that have paid off with both China and India that
"should provide it with sustained business during
Aside from those two
countries, the report found that Moscow appears
focused on Southeast Asia, where it has had "some
success in securing arms agreements with Malaysia,
Vietnam and Indonesia".
In terms of actual
arms deliveries, the Near East is still the
developing world's leader. Similarly, the US was
the leader in arms supplies to Asia from
1997-2000, accounting for 35.4% of all deliveries
to the region. But it slipped to second place in
the 2001-2004 period, with 30.6%, behind Russia's
While some nations in Latin America,
and to a significantly lesser extent in Africa,
have expressed interest in modernizing their
military forces, according to the report, they
have been constrained by over-stretched
treasuries, a factor that could be strengthened by
the recent spike in oil prices for all but oil
Still, arms purchases by Latin
American countries grew from $3.3 billion in
1997-2000 to $4.7 billion in 2001-2004.