Avoid barter trade for arms, says expert

New warplanes are needed by the air force but the government has held back because of financial constraints.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia should avoid barter trade for arms, says a defence analyst, arguing that cheaper equipment could be obtained from certain countries.

Aruna Gopinath, a former professor of the National Defence University, said that barter trade of palm oil for arms, as proposed by the defence ministry recently, could open doors to other negative results.

Malaysia should instead turn to countries which could sell military equipment at a cheaper rate. “The likes of India, Pakistan, China and even Russia will be able to do so,” she said.

However, counter-terrorism expert Andrin Raj believes that barter trade would be the best way forward, to acquire equipment through an offsets programme.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said last week that barter trade could reduce Malaysia’s financial burden. He said that countries had shown their readiness to accept palm oil in exchange for military equipment.

Since then, concerns have been raised, as it would mean Malaysia getting equipment from Russia, China or Pakistan, and while such equipment was sophisticated, equipment from western arms suppliers were felt to be more reliable.

Andrin told FMT that barter trade would help reduce the national deficit.

“There is no concern over such equipment being sub-standard as many countries do this (barter trade). It is a win-win for countries involved in such purchases.

Aruna said that barter trade with Zamboanga in the Philippines had opened the door to illegal immigration and social problems.

She said Malaysia should not take the risk with substandard equipment. “Defence is very important and we should strive to get the best at a lower cost from countries prepared to do so, not engage in barter trade,” she added.