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Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
UK exports arms during Kashmir stand-off
Indian soldier
An Indian soldier uses a rocket launcher on 14 May
The UK continued to grant arms export licences to India and Pakistan despite escalating tensions between the two nuclear powers.

It emerged on Wednesday that even as British nationals were told to leave the two countries because the situation was getting increasingly dangerous, the government was granting licences for military planes and weapons.


What on earth is the British government doing granting arms licences as recently as last month when a million soldiers were facing each other?

Menzies Campbell
The information was released in answer to a Parliamentary Question raised by Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell.

Mr Campbell said he was dismayed that the government had continued with the practice as recently as last month "with the overhanging spectre of a nuclear exchange" between India and Pakistan.

Saferworld, an international security think tank, said the figures revealed the government's own criteria on granting licences was not being implemented rigorously.

Licence criteria

It said: "Despite the government's claim to be an `honest broker' with both Tony Blair and Jack Straw visiting India and Pakistan to urge restraint, there is a danger that, by continuing to canvass the sale of arms to both sides, the UK government will abrogate key international commitments."

The figures showed that the Department of Trade and Industry issued 39 export licences to India and four to Pakistan between 1 May and 20 May this year alone.

The government's criteria for granting licences states: "The government will not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country or to assert by force a territorial claim."

Political persuasion

Mr Campbell said: "What on earth is the British government doing granting arms licences as recently as last month when a million soldiers were facing each other across the Line of Control with the overhanging spectre of a nuclear exchange?

"The government has been at pains to argue that the dispute over Kashmir can only be solved by political means.

"There could hardly be a more persuasive political step than to say all arms shipments would be suspended and to try to persuade other countries to do the same."

A spokesman for the DTI said: "All relevant export licence applications for India and Pakistan are considered on a case-by-case basis in the context of the current situation in the region, against the strict consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Vanessa Haines, Saferworld
"Some of the (weapon) categories include bombs, torpedoes and missiles."
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19 Jun 02 | South Asia
18 Jun 02 | South Asia
11 Jun 02 | South Asia
12 Jan 02 | UK Politics
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