Netherlands involved in major arms build-up in South Asia

Pakistan buys Dutch warships and military equipment

Press Release
Groningen, 12 June 2006

Greece is about to sell four formerly Dutch frigates to Pakistan. Greece has previously bought ten warships of the Kortenaer-class (built in the Netherlands) from the Royal Dutch Navy. According to the specialist magazine Jane’s Defence Weekly the deal currently awaits permission from The Hague. The sale was agreed on last month, during a visit by the Pakistani prime minister to Greece. Earlier the ships were only due to be decommissioned after 2015. It is not known how much money the order is worth.

As part of a separate arms deal the Dutch branch of French arms manufacturer Thales provides military electronics for another four frigates that China is building for Pakistan. The export of these so-called Link-Y Data Link systems plus training and logistic services has been re-insured in October 2005 by export credit agency Atradius for an amount of 2.6 million euro. If Pakistan would fail to pay the bill, the Dutch government guarantees payment. As far as known no export licence has yet been granted for this sale.

Campagne tegen Wapenhandel – the Dutch campaign against arms trade – calls on the Dutch government not to grant permission for both arms sales to Pakistan because of the following reasons:

Though tensions between arch rivals India and Pakistan are more relaxed now then they have been for years, the situation remains volatile. The current round of arms purchases is therefore worrying. Incidents in the recent past have shown that the situation can easily escalate and lead to armed confrontations.

For some years now India is the world’s second arms importer after China. Pakistan currently follows its neighbour with a series of new purchases. Despite an enormous debt burden and the devastating consequences of last year’s earth quake in Kashmir, the regime of Pervez Musharraf has placed orders worth a few billions of euros over the last couple of months with the US (F-16s and Harpoon-missiles), Sweden (Erieye spy planes) and China (fighter aircraft and frigates).

Despite having taken power by a military coup, many western governments consider Musharraf as crucial ally in the war on terrorism. Under that cloak the absence of democratic reforms is silently accepted. Though a major part of the population lives in deep poverty, Pakistan spends 4 percent of its GDP on its armed forces – one of the highest percentages in South and South East Asia. A major arms deal such as the sale of the ex-Kortenaer frigates runs against the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports, which under criteria 8 judges the height of military spending. In 2003 the Dutch government denied an export licence for Pakistan on similar grounds.

Strict adherence to the Code excludes arms exports to Pakistan. The unresolved conflict between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, the bad human rights situation, high military spending, as well as the poverty in which so many live are all factors that run against the spirit of the Code of Conduct that should prevent arms races.

Because of their nuclear tests the Dutch government maintained an arms embargo against India and Pakistan between 1998 and 2003. Before both were important clients of Dutch weaponry. With the announced arms sales to Pakistan little would remain of the very restrictive arms export policy for South Asia that was promised after the lifting of the embargo.

Notes for the press

For more information see:

“Pakistan plans to bolster navy”, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 24 May 2006;
“US plans missile sales to Pakistan”, ISN Security Watch, 2 June 2006;
“Pakistan Raises Defense Spending by 3.78 Percent”, Reuters, 5 June 2006;
“France Oks Sub Talks With Pakistan”, Defense News, 5 June 2006.

More information about Export Credits:
Exportkredieten (partly english)