BOOK REVIEW

Sipri Yearbook 1998

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Columnist Col (Retd) EAS BOKHARI reviews the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Sweden (SIPRI) Yearbook for 1998

Due to freezing of foreign exchange accounts - and difficulties of making payments for books in hard currency - it is rather difficult to get foreign books so easily as it used to be. I am thankful to my good Indian friend (and it is good for us as a confidence building measure) Mr Ravinder Pal Singh who is a senior researcher at Sipri (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute - Sweden) who has sent me a copy of the Yearbook for my personal use.

The book, as usual, has been published by the Oxford University Press - and appears to be slightly leaner than the previous ones. It appears that Sipri which is mainly financed by the Swedish Parliament is also experiencing some financial problems. Hithertofore I used to get all their publications - and there are a number of these which are published in the form of research papers the year round - (both hard bound and paperbacks) gratis. I in fact have also visited Sipri in Stockholm - and am much impressed by the locale of this prestigious institute, and the work done by the eminent researchers there.

As usual the book mainly concerns itself with the world problems of armaments, disarmament - and international security - and is spread over three parts - and an extremely useful index for the users and the researchers. There are a large number of appendices to clarify and highlight certain aspects of the problems discussed in the main chapters.

Its broad distribution of parts is as below:

  • Part I - Security and Conflicts - 1997.
  • Part II Military Spending and Armaments - 1997 and,
  • Part III Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament 1997.

Each part is then further divided into sub-disciplines - and allotted to the experts in that particular field. And once the drafts are ready - and well before the launching of the book - a Press conference is held in which the relevant authors present their contribution in the presence of the Governing Board of the Sipri. I have had the experience of attending one of these ornate presentations in which the limelight was stolen by Dr Arnett a US scholar of great erudition and versatility. He is an engineer-cum-physicist by profession. He may well be considered an authority on CTBT and other such matters. He has visited Pakistan too - and written about the Pakistani perception of CTBT.

Occasionally a leader is appointed to coordinate the work contained in a particular part of the book and he is required to coordinate, synthesise and present the work in the pre-launch conference. The total number of chapter contributors is about 33 in the 1998 Year Book - and the contributors are real international authorities in their fields. The entire work is checked - and perhaps rechecked before it is published in the year book which I suppose is the centre-piece of all Sipri work - which as it is - is considered as one of the most authentic in the realm of security issues. The book naturally is used by researchers, diplomats, politicians - and of course the defence leaders all over the world. There are other books like the Military Balance (IISS - London) - and WMEAT published by ACDA - (Arms Control & Disarmament Agency - Washington DC) - but these do not really match the Sipri Year Book in versatility and wide range of coverage and analysis.

Actually Sipri Year Book - 1998 - (as the previous such books were) is the result of a team work as pointed out by Adam Daniel Rotfeld the Director '...The Yearbook editorial team - Billie Bielckus, Jetta Gilligan Borg, Eve Johansson and Rebecka Charan, editorial assistant - led by Connie Wall, are to be thanked for their competence and devotion to the difficult task of editing this comprehensive volume.... I would also like to thank the coordinators - Ian Anthony Eric Arnett, Peter Jones and Zdzislaw Lachowski for their editorial support in addition to the chapters they contributed to the book. I am grateful to Gerd Hagmeyer-Gaverus, information technology manager; Billie Beilckus, cartographer; Peter Rea, indexer and all the other members of the Sipri staff who provided the necessary support for the production of this year book.'

Purely from the point of view of military R&D (Research & Development - Eric Arnett's presentation is most commendable. It covers a number of countries thus providing a basis of the global trends. The thrust of course is on USA and Russia. this chapter has seven very useful and informative tables relating to a select group of countries.

Various aspects of nuclear and conventional arms control have been discussed with great thoroughness along with the chemical and biological weapons. And then there is a chapter on the land-mines too - which usually are not considered in the arms control agenda. The chapter discusses only the anti-personnel mines which most of the countries have agreed to ban. Pakistan incidentally has not agreed to this proposal because we do not want to trade manpower with mines. Hithertofore the subject of mines was tackled and projected mainly by ICRC and some other NGOs - and there has been very great progress in the banning of anti-personnel mines both at Oslo and Ottawa.

To sum up the contents of this book - which are mouthful - and at the risk of some repetition these are:

  • Major armed conflicts in the world.
  • Armed conflict prevention, management and resolution.
  • Regional studies of the Middle East, Russia and Europe.
  • World military expenditure and arms production.
  • Russian military expenditure.
  • Military research and development.
  • The transfer of major conventional weapons.
  • Multilateral security-related export controls.
  • Nuclear, chemical and biological arms control.
  • African and South East Asian nuclear free weapon-free zone treaties.
  • Conventional arms control.
  • The convention prohibiting anti-personnel mines.

The book is a tremendous research effort which has been checked and rechecked - and of sure earned some commendable reviews. Here are a couple of these:

The Guardian (UK) writes '... The standard work on the world's arms trade and armed conflicts.'

Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Russia) - writes '... Study of the materials in the Yearbook will help politicians and legislators in working out sound solutions to the very complex problems facing Russia in constructing its defence, in arms control, and in foreign policy....'

Tagesspiegel (Germany) has this to say ' ... the findings presented each year by the Sipri research staff are in 1997 again important, informative reading.'

The book - it must be expensive, say at around Pound 50 to Pound 60 is no doubt a mine of information on anything military - and covers the entire range of modern militarism and confrontations and shows the assiduity, dexterity and skill of the battery of researchers who have been pressed into service by Sipri. It is a useful reading material for politicians, world leaders - and military commanders at higher levels.

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