The global trade of weapons has risen over the past five years to its highest level since the end of the Cold War, according to the latest report of the Stokholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Worldwide sales of arms increased by 8.4 per cent in the period between 2012 and 2016 compared with the previous five years, driven by increasing demand from countries in the Middle East and Asia.

The USA remained the top arms exporter during the period, accounting for a third of all exports. Its arms exports increased by 21 per cent compared to the 2007-11 period. Almost half of its arms exports went to the Middle East.

“The USA supplies major arms to at least 100 countries around the world—significantly more than any other supplier state”, said Dr Aude Fleurant, director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

India emerged as the world’s largest importer of major arms in 2012–16, accounting for 13 per cent of the global total. Despite its dismal showing in the global Human Development Index (130th out of 187 countries), between 2007–11 and 2012–16, India increased its arms imports by 43 per cent. In 2012–16 India’s imports were far greater than those of its regional rivals China and Pakistan, the SIPRI reported.

Arms imports by countries in the Middle East increased by 86 per cent during the period, with Saudi Arabia’s up by 212 per cent and Qarter’s up by 245 per cent.

Russia came in as the second largest arms exporter, accounting for 23 per cent of global exports.  China was third as its share of global arms exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 per cent. France and Germany accounted for 6 per cent and 5.6 per cent, respectively.

The five biggest exporters accounted for 74 per cent of the total volume of arms exports.

The US and France are the main weapons providers for the Middle East while Russia and China are the main exporters to Asia.

Imports by countries in South East Asia increased 6.2 per cent from 2007–11 to 2012–16. Viet Nam made a particularly large jump from being the 29th largest importer in 2007–11 to the 10th largest in 2012–16, with arms imports increasing by 202 per cent.

‘With no regional arms control instruments in place, states in Asia continue to expand their arsenals’, said Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘While China is increasingly able to substitute arms imports with indigenous products, India remains dependent on weapons technology from many willing suppliers, including Russia, the USA, European states, Israel and South Korea’.