Procurement: Sanctions Versus The Black Market


February 2, 2013: India is being accused of illegally selling Swedish Carl Gustaf portable recoilless rifles to Burma. Either that or keeping quiet about the weapons being stolen from the army and getting into the international black market for mlitary-grade weapons and ending up in Burma (which has long had international sanctions on it prohibiting legal weapons sales). The matter has been under investigation for over a month without result.

The Carl Gustaf has been around since 1948 and is used by over two dozen countries (including American Special Forces and Rangers). The Carl Gustaf is a 9.3 kg (21 pound) shoulder fired recoilless rifle that uses 3.1 kg (6.8 pound) 84mm shells. These have a range of 150 meters against tanks and 700 meters against structures.

The Carl Gustaf in question was captured from Burmese troops by tribal rebels in the north last year. A journalist took pictures of the weapon, one of which showed the serial number. When that picture showed up in Sweden, the Carl Gustaf manufacturer checked and said the serial number was for a weapon sold to India. While Burma had legally bought some Carl Gustafs 30 years ago, 1990s sanctions made any more sales illegal. This ban included ammo, which degrades after a decade or so. Because of the rather robust black market in weapons in South and Southeast Asia it’s not surprising that Indian weapons and ammo were found in Burma. India is embarrassed, but not surprised and Sweden is offended, but not about to come down too hard on India (which is a major customer for Swedish arms.)


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