Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Time to strengthen India's Look West Policy

In 2005, Dr. Manmohan Singh first mooted India’s “Look West Policy” at the Prime Minister’s Trade and Economic Relations Committee (TERC) meeting. The commencement of the policy was marked by launching negotiations for an India-GCC free trade agreement and a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with individual nations of the group. India and the Middle East have a long history of , trade. Many Indians are employed in the Middle East. These countries are also a major source of oil for India, besides having collaborated in fighting terrorism.

India’s rising international profile has been an impetus for greater economic integration and has highlighted the need to secure its energy interests. While the ‘Look West Policy’ is important and welcomed, its impact remains restricted to only the Middle East. After all, India’s Western neighbours stretch from the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, Persian Gulf to the Central Asian Republics (CAR) and the Caucasus. What is starkly evident in the PM’s Look West Policy is the absence of the CAR which cannot be ignored. While these regions are not conterminous with India, one cannot ignore that any events in these regions have a domino effect on India. Additionally, India has tried to deal with each region separately through bilateral agreements and ‘as and when’ the need to cooperate crops up. India cannot look the other way, especially at a time when China is asserting its global superiority in all spheres of international politics. Additionally, Pakistan continues to regard the region important in order to trammel any Indian presence in the region. There is an imperative need to study the current scenario in CAR, assess the current influences pertaining to China and Pakistan and formulate policies to counter those influences and carve a niche for Indian interests.

Chinese Interests in Central Asian Republics

China has a long border with numerous Central Asian States, namely, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan. The economic linkage between China and CAR has been growing steadily and is benefiting both parties. China’s core interest in CAR is oil and gas as manifested in the ‘New Great Game.’ The country has been tapping the CAR’s natural gas to secure it as an alternative source of energy. The energy dependence of China and CAR’s potential for foreign investment in such sectors has been a point of fortifying friendship.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a successor of the original Shanghai Five organisation has been an important instrument for Beijing as it has offered them the platform to cooperate with Russia, CAR and exercise its influence.

Pakistan’s Interests in Central Asian Republics

Islamabad has always been aware of CAR’s geopolitical role and the importance of Pak-CAR cooperation which can be effectively employed as a leverage. More importantly, one cannot gainsay the significance Pakistan has for CAR because of the sea-access (through Gwadar port) Pakistan offers the land-locked nations. CAR remains significant for Pakistan because of the natural gas supplies and pipelines from these countries. India and Pakistan, both have attempted to gain an advantage over the other in terms of energy needs. While Pakistan has tried to capitalise on Islamic commonalities, it has not been able to achieve a lot. Rather than viewing CAR through the tints of ‘strategic depth’, they have pushed hard to impede the prospects of Indian presence there.

The Afghan factor also brings prominence to the CAR. The Indian support to Northern Alliance in Afghanistan through Tajik links had alarm bells ringing in Pakistan. This further highlighted the need to secure the CAR connection in order to exercise indirect influence on verging regions. While India has invested heavily in Afghanistan to ensure a positional advantage, it has failed to offer an equivalent degree of investment in the CAR.

The need for an Indian response

With such strong Sino-Pak interests in the region, India needs to take note and carve out a policy that counters the growing influence of its not-so-friendly neighbours. Even though, India has inked numerous bilateral treaties and agreements with the Central Asian countries, the level of commitment is superficial. There is an urgent need to take the extra mile and cooperate with CAR to a higher degree to ensure that India is not marginalised in the ‘New Great Game’ and is able to safeguards its energy needs. The recent agreement signed on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline and the proposal to induct a private partner in the agreement brings new hope for the pipeline. However, India need not lay supine but use the impetus to sign more deals with Tajikistan and other countries in Central Asia.

The greater influence India can exercise in Central Asia in terms of energy, access and investments, the stronger it would turn out in the regional game. India’s nuclear cooperation with Kazakhstan has opened doors for a long-lasting friendship but the need is to nurture the alliances for long-term benefits.

Additionally, Tajikistan’s adjoining borders with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and China and its proximity to PoK makes the country extremely important. Tajikistan can aid India’s effective functioning in Afghanistan, especially at a time when the future of the country seems bleak. The fight against drug trafficking and terrorism can be easily facilitated through a stronger alliance. It is important to note that Tajikistan is the only foreign country where India has a military base. Unfortunately, the Farkhor Air Base has not become operational due to numerous frictions between the two sides.

Other potential areas of cooperation with the CAR can be space and military technology. Considering the potential, the present scale of economic dealings with CAR is on a very small scale. Building stronger bonds (in terms of economics, military and politics)with a country is not a matter of days but require sustained efforts over years, that are further nurtured though cultural and diplomatic exchanges and cooperation. India needs to wake up and focus attention towards its distant-yet-important neighbours in the Central Asian region, before other countries grab the opportunity and carve a niche for themselves.

Aditi Malhotra is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS)

Source: Centre for Land Warfare Studies, http://claws.in/index.php?action=master&task=648&u_id=119

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views either of the Editorial Committee or the Centre for Land Warfare Studies).

China’s nuclear ‘gigawatt’ steps in South Asia

On 20 September, 2010, China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) revealed that it had entered into negotiations with Pakistan for the export of a one-gigawatt (GW) nuclear plant to the latter. China had previously constructed nuclear reactors Chashma-1 (operational in 2000) and Chashma-2 (set for completion in 2011). In April 2010, China had initiated the plans of building two additional 300 MW reactors, Chashma 3 and 4, alongside its previous projects. For now, the Sino-Pak nuclear equation seems to have reached its peak with its fresh plan of building a one-GW plant. Considering that the U.S. has been a stentorian advocate of non-proliferation, its minimal reaction to the Sino-Pak nuclear deals stands in stark contrast.

The one-GW plant deal highlights the extreme brazenness with which China continues to operate in the international arena. Considering the U.S.’s official opposition with regard to the construction of Chashma 3 and 4, the fresh plans of constructing the one-GW plan can be construed a strong message from Beijing to Washington. Stating that its agreements are in line with its international obligations and were “grandfathered” before China’s entry into NSG, China has not sought an exemption. It’s disregard for international opposition makes it evident that the rising power would continue to execute its plans without paying any heed to its ‘international image’ or reputation. The U.S’s indolence would only result in further flexing of Chinese muscles. These events resemble those of the Nazi era when the Allied Powers followed a policy of appeasement and discounted the untoward acts of Nazi Germany till its transformed into a leviathan.

The American reluctance on tackling China’s boisterous conduct has much to do with the strong economic linkage the two opponents share. China’s deep integration with the American economy has made the U.S. highly dependent on China. The recent financial crisis highlighted the precarious situation the U.S. grapples with and the importance of China in sustaining their economic stability. Underestimating the Chinese power in previous years has led to a challenging situation for Washington. For the first time, it has had to deal with a rival that is also an indispensable economic partner, further trammeling its options. However, the American passivity in dealing with the Chinese dragon would result in a bigger conundrum that would become almost impossible to tackle at its zenith.

Another challenge that is seemingly at a preliminary stage is Pakistan’s shifting allegiances. The fortifying Sino-Pak bond and Pakistan’s increasing reliance on China could wean the former away from the current US-Pak strategic alliance. The U.S’s necessity for Pakistan’s support in its war efforts in Afghanistan only benefits Pakistan, as it gains from aid and defence benisons that continue to materialise owing to it’s periodical practices of pressure tactics.

The recent disclosures of the U.S’s frustration with Pakistan’s attitude show Islamabad’s actions do not always conform to Washington’s desires and with a stronger Sino-Pak link, the degree of importance attached to the U.S may well wane.
The recent nuclear deals have serious implications for regional stability as it can easily spark off a nuclear arms race in South Asia, further threatening world peace. The glib of ‘peaceful nuclear intentions’ has for long been the initial explanation for an ensuing nuclear build-up for military employment. There are no clear indications that the current rhetoric originating from Beijing and Islamabad would turn out any different.

If Pakistan continues to stockpile more nuclear warheads, then India couldn’t be faulted for following suit, deteriorating the already menacing conditions in the South Asian region. In addition, Pakistan’s nuclear security is contentious and the fear of nuclear material ‘falling into wrong hands’ has become more prominent due to the current wave of terrorism in Pakistan. Additional nuclear facilities in the country would only increase the threat to its stockpiles, therefore resulting in a potential international scare.

Implications for India

The Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008 gave The Chinese an opportunity to strike a similar deal with Pakistan. While the Indo-US deal started on a positive note and was intended to act as ‘India’s passport to the world’, the reality on ground is diametric. The deal has failed to show any signs of commercial implementation and has exacerbated the Indo-US relations due to certain contentious issues like the nuclear liability bill.

Unfortunately, in regard to commercial realisation, India has not benefited much so far, whereas China and Pakistan have used the pretext of the Indo-US deal to justify their deals and profited from them. Pakistan’s increasing nuclear stockpile and China’s assertiveness in the subcontinent should not be seen through a laissez faire lens and it is time India gears up its diplomatic strength to make arrangements to secure its national interests.

The U.S. and India need to foster their relations to a much higher degree in order to counter the rising China and an unstable Pakistan. Any delay in achieving a lucrative equation between Delhi and Washington would only harm the interests of both parties. The energy of the upcoming Obama visit should be directed towards ironing out differences, adjusting strategic postures and securing a stronger bond, keeping in mind its long term benefits. India’s inactivity at this hour will strengthen the perception of India being a ‘door mat’ in the international arena.

Aditi Malhotra is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS)

Source: Indian Defence Review, http://www.indiandefencereview.com/2010/09/china%E2%80%99s-nuclear-%E2%80%98gigawatt%E2%80%99-steps-in-south-asia.html

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pakistan's Nuclear Complex: Threatening World Peace?

Finally the realisation is dawning that the proposition that because Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is under the exclusive control of the Pakistan Army it is safe and secure and not likely to fall into terrorist hands is fundamentally flawed. Simple arithmetic will prove that since military dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq introduced the imported Saudi brand of Wahabi Salafi-ism as the credo of the armed forces every soldier from the Chief of Army Staff down to the soldier has been dyed in the deepest shade of Islamic fundamentalism. The recent Rand Corporation study has underscored that the Pakistan Army is using the nuclear arsenal to help jihadi operations against India.

South Asia is yet again in the spotlight for its ‘enthusiastic’ nuclear attitude. With the recent unveiling of China-Pakistan nuclear cooperation, the issue of Pakistan’s nuclear security has once again gained momentum. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi proclaimed that post-nuclear summit “the world is comfortable with them” [Pakistan’s nuclear assets] and Pakistan “attaches the highest importance to the security of nuclear materials and facilities.” Some officials in the West seem to regard their [Pakistan] nuclear assets as safe but it would not be wrong to state that this belief prevails primarily owing to the strategic importance of Pakistan in US’s Af-Pak policy. The overriding concern about Pakistan’s nuclear security is overtly pronounced in the reports of some Western analysts.

As internal turmoil dominates the political landscape of Pakistan, the criticality about the safety of its nuclear complex needs to be revisited. Pakistan’s nuclear discourse has many dimensions and this article will explore certain crucial aspects. Specifically, they are the Army-Jihadi complex, supra-national individuals like A. Q. Khan, intentions of terrorist groups, theft of nuclear material and lastly, assassination of key nuclear commanders. One of the most (seemingly) comforting arguments lies in the belief that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are safe, purely because they remain under the jurisdiction of the Army. Examining the Pakistani case, there seems to be a serious susceptibility from individuals and factions within the military and intelligence services, who are in cahoots with terrorist groups. What places the vulnerabilities at the peak is the dangerous relationship between the army, intelligence services and the terrorist groups. While a segment of Taliban may be against some sections of Pakistani society; several elements in Taliban continue to maintain a cosy relationship with the Pakistani Army, especially its intelligence establishment. Therefore, the struggle within the Pakistani Army and the perils of Army-jihadi complex pose a serious security problem for Pakistan‘s nuclear arsenals.

Tracing historical accounts, extreme religious ideas penetrated the military during the rule of General Ziaul Haq, which led to ISI’s strong links with religious groups. Extreme Islamisation became a part of Pakistan‘s foreign policy and was evident with unbound support given to the mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan war. When the US imposed sanctions on Pakistan for establishing its covert nuclear programme, the young officers of those times bore anti-American sentiments. Additionally, they were most receptive to Islam fundamentalist ideology and anti-Americanism. Unfortunately, those young officers today are two and three-star generals. Taking into account the extreme Islamisation that dominated the army for decades, there is a clear-cut dichotomy in the present demand of a ‘moderate Islam’ outlook. The “war on terror” has compelled these same officers to crack down on Islamists. This reaction is obviously something new to the officers who were indoctrinated to support the mujahideen in Afghanistan and then in
Kashmir. The allegiance of some officers does remain with the current objectives, while some consider it as anti-Islamic. This is evident by the rising ‘bear count’ in the armed forces that reflects their strong religious attitude. The case of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed best reflects the connection between terrorist groups and the military. Khaled, the alleged
mastermind of 9/11, after escaping many arrests was finally arrested in 2003, at a ‘safe house’ of a serving army officer with links to Jamaat-i-Islami. For this reason, this dangerous link cannot be forestalled.

Pakistan established the practice of Personnel Reliability Programme (PRP) to weed out terrorist sympathizers and ensure a high degree of reliability among its members. It is stated that any personnel that do not adhere to PRP standards are not allowed access to nuclear facilities. The PRP standards include religious orientations, personality complications, sexual deviancy etc. Further, the Pakistani Army has introduced the practice of two-man rule system which ascertains that it is mandatory to have at least 2 personnel at a sensitive area at all times. Such preparations are believed to guarantee that no unsound individual gains control of nuclear weapons.

The practice in itself is commendable and theoretically assures a high degree of security, but its application is questionable. What is not in the public domain is how well these procedures are implemented and if any defectors have ever been identified or removed. It is true that unreliability can crop up in various forms and even if all individuals are not a threat, some are likely to be. The unknown figure is what causes added anxieties and results in severe doubts about Pakistan‘s claims. According to Asian News International, civilians that access highly enriched uranium (HEU) are not scrutinised as thoroughly as the military personnel involved in weaponry operations.

It is important to bear in mind that Pakistan‘s nuclear evolution relied on illicit nuclear procurements, which reveals its inherent dependence on rogue actors. Therefore, it would
become difficult to weed out the inappropriate personnel easily, from a system so deeply entangled with rogue elements. It is partially reassuring that former President Musharraf purged many top and middle level officers of the ISI because of their links to the Taliban or Al Qaeda but it is not unreasonable to believe that none are aware of the actual number of Islamic sympathisers in the military or ISI presently. As the line goes, “Who watches the watchmen?” Allied to the intentions of terrorist groups to employ WMD for mass killing, these connections and links are a cause of grave concern.

The secrecy surrounding Pakistan’s nuclear assets and procedures to safeguard them has added to the international unease. Even though the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review focuses
on the issue of nuclear terrorism and illicit nuclear trade, little has been done in Pakistan to ensure such regulations. The case of A. Q. Khan is one such incident. Khan, who was never actually “punished”, was kept under house arrest till the Pakistani court recently declared him a ‘free citizen’ and allowed him to ‘move freely and continue his activities’. Dr. Khan, known as the father of Pakistan‘s nuclear programme, eventually became the ringmaster of a nuclear black market, which was revealed in February 2004. When former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was questioned on this case, he maintained that the army did not know about such activities. He said, “...if there was some individual
who for personal gain wanted to sell national assets ... it could be possible because it was not under strategic checks and controls.” The statement reveals a daunting fact. In case the army wasn’t aware about the activities (a highly unlikely scenario), it reflects that the army did not exercise serious control over its nuclear establishments.

Pakistan remains a serious concern because the black market network established by A. Q. Khan has been instrumental in nuclear proliferation. Most of the States that have relied on this network for their nuclear efforts are prone to instability, viz North Korea, Iran, Libya and allegedly Myanmar. However, A. Q. Khan’s case is not in isolation. Another example is that of Sultan Mahmood, an Islamist who eventually gave up his position as director of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). He reportedly revealed some rough designs of creating a nuclear weapon to Osama bin Laden in 1999. Apart from this case, Prof. Chaudhry Abdul Majeed and Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, two renowned nuclear scientists in the region, with deep religious orientation, have also been involved in leaking nuclear information to the Taliban. These reports contradict Pakistan‘s continuous pronouncements that their nuclear assets are in safe hands.

Another worrying dimension is the intentions of terrorist networks and their reach. Although Al Qaeda has, so far, employed conventional explosives for destruction, reports reveal that they may be willing to employ nuclear weapons for the same. American accounts have reported that Osama bin Laden has declared the
possession of nuclear weapons as a religious duty. Furthermore, International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) has reported about his efforts to acquire an atomic bomb. Adding to the scare was a fatwa issued by
Sheikh Nasir bin Hamid al-Fahd, allowing the use of WMD, even if it involves killings of innocent Muslims. An important and rather intimidating characteristic of Pakistan‘s nuclear infrastructure is that major nuclear sites are in close proximity of violence prone regions on their western frontiers. The establishment of the same away from the eastern border was originally intended to minimise the likelihood of an Indian attack on the infrastructure. Unfortunately, this has got the facilities closer to the instable Af-Pak region. These areas remain the hub of terrorist activities and sectarian violence in the country.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, there are approximately 47 terrorist and extremist organisations in Pakistan. While some are involved with strong ties to infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir, others are a part of Pakistan’s Taliban with strong ties to Afghanistan’s Taliban or foreign jihadis. Apart from these, there are groups involved in sectarian violence, specifically, insurgents involved in Baluchistan, Shia / Sunni and Punjabi / Sindhi violence. Consequently, the presence of such groups contributes to security threats to the nuclear facilities. Numerous attempts have been made by terrorist groups to accumulate enough nuclear fuel to create dirty bombs or a nuclear weapon (which is highly unlikely to happen in the near future). Pakistan is capable of making plutonium and HEU for nuclear use. The potential theft of nuclear fuel directly implies the ease for the terrorists to make a dirty bomb. Pakistan has been unable to account on the quantum of nuclear fissile material within its boundaries. This further leads to worry because without a record of the nuclear material present, it would be difficult to track stolen material (if any).

Presently, no available accounts declare that a terrorist group, functioning independent of a government, have the skills to develop a nuclear weapon. Certainly, developing a nuclear weapon is not easy even if the terrorists gather the needed nuclear material. Besides, one cannot deny that outsiders cannot get access to nuclear fissile material. There have, however, been numerous recorded cases of thefts. According to UN agency reports, in 2005 and 2006 alone, there have been more than 250 cases of unauthorised possession, theft or loss of nuclear or related materials reported to the UN IAEA Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB). Having noted this, it is particularly important for Pakistan to keep a track of its fissile material, strictly monitoring the movements of fuel. There are strong reasons to believe that Pakistan does not have fissile material protection, control and accounting (MPC&A) systems installed at its nuclear facilities. These systems are easily available but seemingly Pakistan neither will be able to afford nor possess the expertise to produce a similar technology.

Another major situation involves the fears that fundamentalists could assassinate the most important personnel of nuclear command and control, thus creating a gap in the organisation, making it more vulnerable to unauthorised usage. This fear gained much momentum and weight with three attempted assassinations of Musharraf in 2000, 2003 and 2007. All attempts had links to army personnel and Al Qaeda. Benazir Bhutto’s killing is also considered as an evidence of Islamic anger and also points towards the role of Pakistan army. One cannot ignore that in order to fulfil their plans of eliminating key commanders the fundamentalists will have to resort to simultaneous attacks on numerous commanders. Despite the pattern of previous attacks, eliminating all key leaders seems highly improbable. As mentioned before, many back-up plans and contingency remain untested, therefore adding an element of uncertainty to the scenario.

Based on reports, there have been three suicide attacks at, or close to Sargodha Air Base (nuclear weapons and missile storage facilities). Other attacks were in Punjab, NWPF and Wah Cantonment ordnance factory. It is important to note that the sites targeted provided security facilities for Pakistan‘s nuclear programme. Clearly, Pakistan is at war with itself. In view of the drone attacks in the tribal agencies of Pakistan and the offensives launched by the Pakistani Army, acts of violence by insurgent Taliban forces will continue to escalate and be a source of constant threat for Pakistan’s nuclear security.

It is prudent to consider that no security arrangement is foolproof but Pakistan should adopt measures to minimise its vulnerabilities and direct its efforts to a relatively more secure nuclear complex. Primarily, it is essential to ensure the existence of stable democratic institutions in the country. Serious efforts should be made to implement a version of ‘dual-key system’, with a balance of civilian and military participation in it. To facilitate enhanced security, a guardianship system that was once practiced by the US in 1940s should be adopted. Pakistan should adopt a more rigorous PRP in order to identify their malcontents better. Accordingly, Pakistan should adopt a much more transparent attitude regarding their nuclear doctrine, nuclear assets, PRP defectors etc. This will facilitate its relationship of trust and cooperation with the international community. Genuine efforts should be directed towards employing internationally trusted systems like the MPC&A. Such systems provide higher guarantee of nuclear safety internally and externally.
It is important for Pakistan to practice recessed deterrence and comply with it even under extremely tensed situations. This reduces the chances of any potential theft or unauthorized usage. In the nutshell, Pakistan should not evade the issue of nuclear security but rather work towards a more secure nuclear complex.

The writer is a Research Assistant at Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi.

SOURCE: Defence and Security Alert, Vol. 1, Issue. 12, September 2010.

Globalisation And The Illicit Trade Of Small Arms And Light Weapons

In June 2010, the representatives of all United Nations (UN) Member States came together at the Biennial Meeting of States in New York to consider the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action (POA) on the illicit trade in small arms. The program was initiated in July 2001 to keep a check on the ever-growing illicit trade on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and to help countries, combat this pernicious problem. While the forum has worked continuously for the cause and attempts to achieve a certain degree of success in implementing the POA, there are numerous areas that still remain extremely challenging to deal with. Even though, the campaigns for combating illicit arms trade stirred reasonable support for the cause but largely, the progress has not been noteworthy. A few such disappointments can be incapability to act on setting international standards of marking and tracing of SALW and regulating illicit arms brokers.

While most of the issues relating to the illicit trade of SALW are highlighted in the media, few talk about ways and methods through which globalisation has spurred the black market of SALW. It Is imperatively important to realise the magnitude of illicit activities that take place under the garb of globalisation and work towards it comprehensively. Globalisation is not new and neither is the black market. In the contemporary times, terrorism has been regarded as a major threat to world security. Intensive media coverage devoted to terrorism obscures other similar threats that haunt international security. Black market of arms and ammunitions is one of them. The illegal market for munitions encompasses top-of the-line tanks, radar systems that detect Stealth aircraft, and the makings of the deadliest weapons of mass destruction. One prominent example in the history of arms black market is the sale of 87 Hughes helicopters to North Korea in the mid-1980s.

While the issue of global illicit trade of small arms does not attract much attention in the international arena, it evidently is an issue of pressing importance. The global illegitimate business in small arms is valued approximately around US$ 1 billion. Even though, the figure does not seem very outrageous, it’s important to realise that it’s the small arms that fuel crime and sustain armed conflicts world over, for example, 4 decades in Columbia and continues to plague the country of Afghanistan. It is equally responsible for facilitating terrorism and creating anarchy after civil wars. Burundi, Ghana, Yemen, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan are few of many countries that suffer from this form of ‘black globalisation’.

The structure of the small arms black market today is a complex network stretching across the globe, siphoning the gains of globalisation. At heart, it’s essential to map out the structure of illicit arms trade which not only includes black market, but also grey market and craft production.

The journey of small arms begins from the legal circuit and eventually falls into illegal clutches. There are multiple ways through which the legally originated arms get diverted to illegal spheres. Shipping through dangerous routes, stockpile mismanagement, loots, corruption among officials, warzone seizures are a few of them.

The world of Globalised Crime

Tom G. Palmer of the Cato Institute defines Globalisation as "the diminution or elimination of state-enforced restrictions on exchanges across borders and the increasingly integrated and complex global system of production and exchange that has emerged as a result.” (1)

The ideation of globalisation advocates free market forces with minimised economic barriers and open trade for world development. This forms the basis of expansion of arms black market. With minimised custom regulations and border control, trafficking of small arms becomes easier. A miniscule percent of container ships have cargo checks, therefore making the arms movement smooth. Faking documents (bills of lading, forged end-use certificates) (2), bribing officials and concealing arms as humanitarian aids are common practices. In 2002, traffickers acquired 5,000 AK-47s from Yugoslavian army stocks and moved them from Serbia to Liberia under the guise of a legal transaction with Nigeria. One of the planes used in this shipment came from Ukraine and made a refuelling stop in Libya while en route. (3)

Political and economic integration are coupled with lesser restrictions in migration and human movement. This helps the arms dealers to fortify their present business connections and tap new ones. Dealers migrate to various regions, motivated by business expansion or reduced operational risks. In case of arrests, arms dealers travel to countries where it is not possible to get extradited. The following case sheds some light on the argument. Abu Salem, an underworld criminal from India, who besides having a lengthy criminal record, was involved in providing illegal arms for 1993 serial bomb blasts in India. To escape arrest, he left for Portugal. After 3 years of legal disputes, Indian authorities managed to extradite Abu Salem from Lisbon, Portugal. It was after this case that India and Portugal signed an extradition treaty in 2007.

Further, banking reforms and capital mobility have aided the black market to spread its trade internationally, utilising every angle of the well linked financial market. This also gives rise to offshore markets and tax shelters. An illustration of banking innovation is Emoney. Banks have introduced cards bearing microchips, which are able to store large sums of money. These cards are portable outside conventional channels or can be easily bartered among individuals. The money involved in illegal arms deals is exorbitant and the use of Emoney makes transactions easier.

The linkage of banks with the internet has posed a new challenge in combating illegitimate activities in the financial sector. E-banking has digitised money making it prone to criminality. Even though, it has numerous benefits for the world at large, it is misused for money laundering, credit card scams and check-kiting (4). Adding to this, economic integration among regions blesses arm brokers with more opportunities to shelter their money, by investing in different stock exchanges. Numerous other illegal practices are a by-product of a deregulated financial sector, but money laundering is at the apex.

Money Laundering or ‘cleansing of money’ is an unlawful practice of concealing the point of origin, identity or destination of the funds, when performing a particular financial transaction. The criminals manoeuvre money across borders gaining from banks in countries with lax anti-laundering policies.

Profound expansion of commercial airline and freight industry (making transport cheaper and easier) are instrumental in increased penetration of arms in conflict zones. Global merger of airline companies, supply chains, shipping firms make it tough to supervise unlawful practices in air and water.

The growth of global communication in the past two decades has been unfathomable. This has enhanced the ability of arms dealers to communicate internationally through the web at a cheap rate. Arms dealers use ‘cloned’ cellular phones and unsecured broadband networks to surpass any chances of getting traced. Satellite phones are an option in remote areas where other means cannot be operated, providing an uninterrupted channel of contact and reach. Sometimes, arms deals are conducted through wires, where the privilege of anonymity prevails. In 2004, British police arrested more than 50 people in a series of raids to crack down criminals who bought illegal arms from abroad over the internet (5).

Illicit arms trade is not isolated from other global illegal activities. When small arms flow to the black market, they become one of many illegal commodities there. The arms can be exchanged for money, drugs, conflict diamonds, endangered species etc. It becomes extremely tough to distinguish individual illegal acts in a web of transnational crime. Activities of arms dealers stretch across to other transnational criminal organisations (TCOs), like the drug and human traffickers, smugglers, terrorists’, mafias etc. For instance, members of Al Qaeda hail from numerous countries, bearing fake passports and identities for security and ease of functioning. Their arms belong to black or grey markets ranging from Afghanistan, North West Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Latin America etc. Some arms were siphoned by ISI during the Soviet-Afghan war. Additionally, they also rely on profits incurred from drug trade originating in Afghanistan.

Global Governance

United Nations (UN) Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

The UN initiated the Programme of Action after initial study on effect of small arms on the societies. In July 2001, UN conducted a conference on the Illicit Trade of SALW in All its Aspects. The conference focussed on the measures nations could take to combat the widespread problem of illicit arms trade. During this period, International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) took birth, which was an amalgamation of numerous NGOs. Today, IANSA has 700 members which are growing continuously.

The program bought the issue of the proliferation and abuse of SALW. It focuses on making illicit gun manufacturing a criminal act, destroying surplus arms, issuing end-user certificates for transfers, marking and tracing of guns, sharing information, documenting the records of gun production, imposing stricter enforcements on weapons sanctions (6).

UN Firearms Protocol

Another program commenced by the UN was the UN Firearms Protocol, which came into effect from 3rd July 2005. This program was to supplement to the United Nations Convention against TCOs. The protocol seeks to encourage, assist and build up cooperation between states to combat illegal trafficking in SALW and monitoring its activities.

Till September 2005, 44 states approved the Protocol. A major problem that hinders in the success for this program is the acceptance of majority of the states. Its important to penetrate the will of the global community, so that the measures proposed in the program are effectively implemented and not in words (7).

Control Arms Campaign and the Arms Trade Treaty

Control Arms is a global campaign launched in October 2003 by Amnesty International, Oxfam International and IANSA. It centres on the global trade of SALW and advocates against irresponsible transfers of arms to countries which practice human rights abuse. It clearly endorses striker arms trade laws which would prohibit the augmentation of grey market and black market.

Even after numerous efforts to do away with the illicit arms trade, there has not been any international treaty that binds countries into a common cause. The control arms campaign proposes an International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The ATT would be a legally binding treaty which would unite the country’s present commitments under an international law. Presently, the treaty has the support of almost 153 countries and more that 800 NGO’s. (8, 9)

International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol)

Interpol is an organisation that facilitates cooperation of international police. It was established in 1923 and today enjoys a membership of 186 member states. It focuses on transnational crimes like terrorism, money laundering, drug, human and illicit arms trafficking etc.

Interpol has been aggressively involved in the illicit arms trade and have been tracing and tracking arms trafficking activities world over, with cooperation from its members. One of the admirable examples of their work is the arrest of Victor Bout, world’s largest arms dealer, alleged of delivering weapons to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The arrest was result of a multi-country operation (10).

In 2006, Interpol was working on a study in collaboration with International Criminal Court, to launch a pilot project comprising of data collection and information analysis concerning primary figures involved in illicit arms brokering (11).

Regional Level

Latin America and Caribbean

Major Problems:

Increasing demand due to general increase in criminal and cross-border activities.
Approximately 90% of illicit arms enter through Columbia, Panama and Guatemala
Illicit homemade firearms post a challenge. They flow from Central and North America.

Regional efforts:

Countries like Paraguay have toughened their small arms legislations and are cooperating to share information on the issue (member states of Mercosur).
The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-LIREC), the Organisation of American States (OAS), and Mecosur are working towards supportive ventures to build small arms control programmes.
Organisations from different regions are coming together to act. For example, Andean Community is coordinating with Nairobi Secretariat, SaferAfrica and EU for the cause.
The Caribbean Community (Caricom) set up a ministerial body to counsel on small arms and seeks to launch a Weapons Intelligent Unit to trace arms within the region.
OAS adopted the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA) in 1997, the first international treaty to target illegal arms trade.

The Pacific

Major Problems:

SALW are readily available and there is a lack of control and regulation
Availability of old stocks in the region
Lack of infrastructure for stockpile management

Regional Efforts:

Pacific Islands Forum Regional Security Committee (FRSC) has established processes for an effective regional approach to combat the problem by regular control, tracing the production, possessions etc.
FRSC were instrumental in developing two important documents, namely, the Honiara initiative, Nadi Declaration (established framework of legislation to be used in national authority) and also the Biketawa Declaration (2001).

South East Asia

Major Problems:

Illicit trafficking in SALW is causing instability and threatening security
Number of intra-state conflicts that plague the region are instrumental in increasing the demand
Long maritime regions are tough to monitor and national inventories are not managed properly.

Regional efforts:

In 1999, the ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime was adopted, which comprised a major section of illicit arms trafficking.
Improvement in information flow and coordinated work between ASEAN Chiefs of National Police (ASEANPOL), customs and immigration officials facilitates better working.
In May 2000, ASEAN focussed exclusively on SALW, together with Indonesia, UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific and Japan.

Sub Saharan Africa

Major Problems:

Demand due to inter/intra state conflict and other ethnic and religious disputes.
Firearms have fuelled uncontained conflicts like Liberia, Congo etc.
Slow progress in developing national and regional points of contact on the issue.

Regional efforts:

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Nairobi Secretariat have recognized national and regional divisions purposely regarding the illegal small arms trade.
SADC and Nairobi Secretariat collaborated through lawfully binding understanding directed towards the eradication of the problem; Nairobi Secretariat is also jointly working with Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO) and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on developing methods of control the trade.
The Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED), (ECOWAS + UN Development Programme) has supported 13 out of 15 ECOWAS Members to create commissions for the execution of ECOWAS Moratoriumon Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Light Weapons.

The Arab World

Major Problems:

US-led invasion of Iraq added to the already high number of small arms in the region.
The issue of Palestinian refugees and underdevelopment in the particular area have lead to increasing demands.
Insufficient regulation of SALW holistically in the Arab world
Regional efforts:

The League of Arab States is effectively monitoring the illegal activities related to small arms. The main point of concern for them is the Palestinian issue, which has given rise to the illegal arms trafficking and terrorism.
In December 2003, the League and the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs (UNDDA) employed the UN Programme of Action in the region.


Major Problems:

Major small arms exporters in the world hail from the Europe.
Some countries have high levels of gun violence across the region, whereas some have very low levels.
Uncontrolled proliferation of illicit trafficking in small arms in South-Eastern Europe.
Regional efforts:

The illicit arms trade issue was initially given emphasis in OSCE in 1996, and established the OSCE document on SALW, guiding countries on national regulation, monitoring illegal brokering, export restriction, weapons destructions etc.
The South Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC) is an important organisation in the struggle against illicit trade of SALW in South Eastern Europe, providing assistance and training to countries with lack of resources.
Even though numerous steps have been taken at different levels, they have been unable to produce reasonable results. Although holistically viewed, the actions seem to be inadequate and ineffective.

National Level

Illicit arms trade is a threat to majority of countries in the world. Primarily, all countries working towards this problem employ their national police service, administrative and bureaucratic services to combat the problem. The degree of devotion to the problem varies with countries majorly depending on the level of threat the problem poses to them.


- No internationally binding treaty to combat the problem.
- No agreed international standard of marking and tracing weapons.
- No transparency in arms export and transfer of arms to ‘high risk regions.’
- Covert authorised arms transfers.
- Arms supply to non-state actors/embargoes countries.
- Lax custom policies or careless officials.
- No agreement/treat directly targeting the illegal arms brokers.


Establish a common international standard of marking and tracing the SALW. This should be followed by all countries so that there is no discrepancy in the markings. If followed properly, this practice would make it easier to trace the illegal weapons and the routes from where they reach the wrong hands.
Stipulate common paradigms of stockpile management and security. This would consequently make it easier for officials to minimise cases of stockpile loot. Adding to this, the practice of destroying surplus should be well promoted to avoid the arms reaching unlawful dealers.
The governments should make arms licensing stricter and lesser available for the civil population and establish tougher requirements for attaining arms. Parallel to that, laws should be devised to monitor the activities of arms brokers and clearly lay down the boundaries of their role.
National laws relating to illegal arms trade should be strengthened, regularly updated and reformed according to the progress and needs of the problem. The government should also control the activities of private companies within their jurisdiction. Private companies should be restricted to supply arms to states where slack law enforcements make it easier for illicit dealers to siphon arms.
The present multilateral agreements should be strengthened. The most effective action can be taken at regional levels, as the agreements are flexible to the needs of each region. Therefore, the more multilateral and regional agreements should be worked upon through better cooperation, information sharing and strictly adhering to embargoes imposed on various regions.
Arms sales should be regulated and monitored nationally and internationally and common international benchmarks of export practices should be ascertained for countries to act better and in coordination.
Transparency is the most important factor for pursuing responsible exports. Presently, the exporters of arms hardly practice transparency. It is not just important to transfer arms to countries but to trace that the arms are in responsible hands and not abused for inhuman purposes or illegitimate practices.
Lastly, it’s significant and inevitably important to pave way towards an International Arms Trade Treaty. The ATT proposed is a well documented treaty containing majorly all aspects of arms trade. If the treaty is accepted internationally, then it would form the basis of a strong mechanism to restrict the irresponsible sale of SALW and reduce the negative effects that it has on the global society.

The inevitability of the Black Market

After an extensive study on the illicit arms trade and its global governance, it is important to see the dark side of the same coin. It’s a universal perception that governmental actions, multilateral coordination and stricter laws would bring an end to this curse. Unfortunately, this is not true. The black market survives on the simple rules of economics where market forces dominate the game. Guns are illegal today, but there are people (terrorists, individuals, rebel groups etc.) who desire it. Consequently, this creates the demand. In order to satiate the demand, there needs to be a supplier. Supplying guns (which is an illegal act) involves a lot of risk because of the coercive actions of the state. In normal circumstances, this would be too perilous, but there is a catch. The people who demand SALW are ready to pay a higher price than the legal price. Therefore, this scenario gets the suppliers a heavy profit by taking the risk. Over a period of time, the supplier becomes adept in their work and finds new means to get new arms, whether they are by siphoning from legal market, looting from stockpiles or accumulating abandoned guns from conflict zones. With unbound profits from for each deal, the suppliers become richer and stronger.

Even with stricter laws and embargoes, the demand would remain. Now satisfying the demand means greater risk, which implies a higher price for the same gun. This in turn means higher profit for the dealers (12). This clearly reflects that the black market would never get eliminated. The only way to abolish this is to abolish the demand. This is best explained by Aaron Karp, ‘To eliminate the gray market would require universal acceptance of the political status quo, the end of international politics. Short of world government or a powerful system of collective security, states will continue to find the appeal of the gray market to be irresistible’ (13). In the nutshell, the future of black markets depends on the events of this globalised world which can either boost illicit trade or cripple it to an insignificant level.


1. Tom G. Palmer, ‘Globalization Is Grrrreat!’, Cato Institute 1:2-6, < http://www.cato.org/pubs/letters/palmer-catoletters.pdf>, 2002.

2. End-Use Certificate, in shipping, a document intended to assure authorities of the eventual application (generally also the final customer and destination) of a particular actual or intended shipment. End-use certificates are needed in cases in which there are political controls on exports, such as advanced military weapons, MSN Encarta, < http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_762505541/end-use_certificate.html>.

3. Rachel Stohl, ‘The Tangled Web of Illicit Arms Trafficking’, Centre for American Progress p. 21, < http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2004/10/b217737.html>, 2004.

4. Check kiting is a form of fraud involving the sloshing of theoretical funds between two bank checking accounts. A check written to the criminal from one bank is deposited, and more importantly credited, to an account at a second bank. Because that second bank now shows a positive balance, the criminal can withdraw enough money to deposit back into the first bank before the check bounces for lack of funds, Wisegeek, < http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-check-kiting.htm>.

5. ‘British police arrest over 50 for acquiring illegal arms via internet’, People’s Daily Online, 1 July, 2004, < http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200407/01/eng20040701_148103.html>.

6. All the information in this section is abridged from the IANSA homepage > Specifically, the data was available in the section of UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

7. All the information in this section is abridged from the UN Office of Drugs and Crime homepage .

8. The information in the 1st and 2nd paragraphs is abridged form data available at the Control Arms homepage, .

9. Debbie Hillier & Brian Wood, ‘Shattered Lives: the case for tough international arms control’. Amnesty International and Oxfam International, Control Arms, p. 76 2003.

10. ‘INTERPOL praises international co-operation behind arrest of suspected international arms dealer by Thai Police’ INTERPOL media release, 7 March. 2008, .

11. The information was abridged from ‘Need for Global Action to Combat Illicit Arms Brokering Highlighted, as Preparatory Meeting for Small Arms Conference Continues’, United Nations Information Service, , 2006.

12. The idea reflected in this section is largely based on the following article. Curt Bolding, ‘The Layman’s Guide to Black Market Firearms’, 2AMPD,
< http://www.2ampd.net/Articles/Bolding/The_Layman's_Guide_to_Black_Market_Firearms.htm> , 2000.

13. Aaron Karp, ‘The Rise of Black and Gray Markets’, American Academy of Political and Social Science, < http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/1048134.pdf> , 1994.

SOURCE: Eurasia Review, 01 September, 2010 http://www.eurasiareview.com/201009017600/globalisation-and-the-illicit-trade-of-small-arms-and-light-weapons.html